Wealthy Black businessman in 1800s

Sam Harris was a wealthy Williamsburg businessman in the late 1800s. And he was Black.

Harris moved to Williamsburg in 1872 with $70 and plenty of determination. By the late 1800s, he’d made a small fortune selling just about everything — from beds to groceries — you’d need for a home at the turn of the century.

He was a major landowner and a major employer. One would think that because he was black he had fewer opportunities, but that wasn’t true. He was a major community personality and a community-minded person.”

Harris was so prominent and wealthy that he lent money to the president of William & Mary and had a real estate partnership with a local judge, his biographer Julia Woodbridge Oxrieder told The Daily Press in 1998.

Harris managed to keep his store running after the Virginia Constitution was enacted in 1902, which restored white supremacy and limited Black enterprise.

Black-owned businesses can strive no matter the era.

Who was Sam Harris?

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