Compiled By NAN News Editor
News Americas, MIAMI, FL, Fri. Feb. 9, 2018: There are many Caribbean nationals who contributed to the Black history of the United States and to the country overall. Here are six lesser known Caribbean Americans you should know, including two from that famous “s-hole” Caribbean nation. They are:
1: Jeremiah G. Hamilton
Jeremiah G. Hamilton, also known as Jerry Hamilton, was noted as “the only black millionaire in New York” about a decade before the American Civil War.
Hamilton was born in Haiti and after migrating to the US, became a Wall Street broker and a shrewd financial agent, amassing a fortune of $2 million ($44.6 million today) by the time of his death in 1875.
Although he circulated among the financial elite and was himself very wealthy, Hamilton was also a victim of the racism that so pervasive during his time. During the New York City draft riots in 1863, white men seeking to lynch Hamilton broke into his house, but were turned away with only liquor, cigars, and an old suit by his white wife Eliza, after she said her husband was not home.
At the time of his death in May 1875, Hamilton was said by obituaries to be the richest black man in the United States. He is buried in his family lot in the Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn.
2: Charles Terres Weymann
Charles Terres Weymann was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti and after migrating to the US, became an early aeroplane racing pilot and businessman. During World War I, he flew for Nieuport as a test pilot and was awarded the rank of Chevalier of the Legion of Honour. After the war Charles Weymann used his knowledge of airframe manufacture to develop a system of making fabric bodies for road vehicles. He opened factories in Paris in 1921, London in 1923 and Indianapolis in 1928. The market for these grew enormously and Weymann licensed his system to many of Europe’s most prestigious marques. Weyman died in 1976 in France at the age of 87.
3: Oscar Dathorne
Oscar Dathorne was born in Georgetown, Guyana, before migrating to England and obtaining several degrees. He later became a pioneer of Black Studies in the United States, teaching African-American studies at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and then spent 15 years working at Ohio State and the University of Miami, establishing and directing African, Caribbean, and African-American study programs. In 1987 he left the University of Miami to take up a post as a professor in the English department at the University of Kentucky and by 1979, became the founding editor of the Journal of Caribbean Studies. Dathorne was also the author of novels, poetry and non-fiction works. He passed away in 2007.
4: Bessie Stringfield
Jamaican Bessie Stringfield was the first black woman to complete a solo motorcycle ride across the United States. She was born in Kingston in 1911 to a Jamaican father and a Dutch mother. When Bessie was five years old, her parents died, and she was then adopted and raised by an Irish woman in Boston. She taught herself to ride her first motorcycle at the age of 18 and supported herself by doing motorcycle stunts at carnivals. In World War I, Stringfield became a civilian courier for the U.S. Army, completing a rigorous training program and riding her own blue 61-cubic-inch Harley-Davidson to carry messages between domestic bases. She worked for the Army for four years, crossing the United States eight times. Stringfield died in Opa-locka, FL in 1993.
5: Zephaniah Alexander Looby
Zephaniah Alexander Looby was born in Antigua & Barbuda and he immigrated to the United States at the age of 15, earning degrees at Howard University, Columbia University Law School, and New York University. He became a lawyer in Nashville, Tennessee who was active in the Civil Rights Movement. He is noted for being part of the defense team for 25 black men charged in attempted murder for the Columbia race riot of 1946 and winning acquittals for most, in the aftermath of the first major racial confrontation in the United States after World War II. Looby died on March 24, 1972. He is buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Nashville. In 1976, the city government of Nashville named a new library and community center in Looby’s honor and in 1978, the James C. Napier Lawyers Association changed its name to the Napier-Looby Bar Association, in honor of Looby and his accomplishments. In 1982, the Nashville Bar Association posthumously awarded Looby membership; it had rejected him on racial grounds when he applied in the 1950s.
6: Alton Augustus Adams, Sr.
Alton Augustus Adams, Sr. is remembered primarily as the first black bandmaster in the United States Navy (beginning 1917). Adams was born in St. Thomas, USVI and studied music theory and composition late into the nights through correspondence courses with Dr. Hugh A. Clark at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1915, he became the music editor for the St. Croix newspaper The Herald and a year later he became the band columnist for Boston’s Jacobs’ Band Monthly.
When on the eve of its entrance into World War I, the United States purchased the Virgin Islands from Denmark, Adams possessed a unique combination of administrative skill and community service with credibility on the U.S. mainland and no problematic political entanglements that allowed him to take advantage of an unprecedented opportunity. With his U.S. Navy Band of the Virgin Islands in top form, Adams and the band won accolades from concert and radio audiences in Hampton Roads Virginia, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York, and Boston.
On June 2, 1917, Adams and his entire Juvenile Band were inducted into the United States Navy, thus becoming the first African-Americans to receive official musical appointments in the U.S. Navy since at least the War of 1812 and making Adams the navy’s first black bandmaster. Adams died in Charlotte Amalie on November 23, 1987, a few weeks after his 98th birthday.