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Tammy's All Things History

Bringing the Past to Life!

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June 2015

History on Saturday: James C. Craig, Barber from Grand Rapids


jubilee-barber-shop-large
1915. Henry Wayne Robbins’ barber shop in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Meet James C. Craig, a barber from Grand Rapids, Michigan in the late 1800s. He is an African-American man who immigrated to the city in 1871. Amazed at his success during the late 19th and early 20th centuries a newspaper editor inquired about the man, and Mr. Craig replied to him, telling his story in his words.

“I was born in the city of Louisville, Kentucky on the second day of April 1849. I was a slave until 1862. I followed the 23rd Regiment of Michigan in 1864 throughout the southern states and left them at [in] Atlanta, Georgia. Then I came to Flint, Michigan with Captain George Buckingham. He was sick. I then learned the barber trade in the year 1865. Then in the year 1868, I went to Battle Creek, Michigan. I lived there until 1870 and went into business for myself. I did not meet with success as I hoped. In 1871, I came to Grand Rapids and opened up business again as a barber. I am pleased to tell you that I have made it a success this time. My place of business is 70 Canal Street. On October 28, 1884, I was appointed the honorary commissioner of the 5th District of the World’s Fair at New Orleans.”-James C. Craig (1)

This biography is modest because it tells the story of Mr. Craig’s life of perseverance and determination but it does not include information about his membership and participation in African-American (men-only) organizations. His collection does contain clippings of meetings and notes that suggest he was interested in the quality of life of fellow African-American citizens and their fight for equal rights in Grand Rapids. How active he was in these memberships or the privileges they might have given him are not known at this time. Mr. Craig’s commitment to his business and networking through memberships did distinguish him as a gentleman of his class and race. Additional research is needed to understand how if any of his contributions, his legacy, and his life helped influence the African-American community of Grand Rapids as well as the dream of equal rights for everyone in America. (2)

1. Finding aid for the James C. Craig collection Collection 183 Finding aid prepared by Lynn Eleveld … Finding aid for the James C. Craig collection Collection 183 http://grplpedia.grpl.org/wiki/images/7/7b/183.pdf

2. Jelks, Randal Maurice. African Americans in the Furniture City: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Grand Rapids. Urbana and Chicago: U of Illinois, 2006. Print.

Write Me a Story Challenge


Here is my response:

That day In 1863, far away in the distance, the sound of gunfire, artillery shells and the shouts of men and boys in the throes of pain and death, we sat, together, reflecting. Each, to their thoughts, but unified in the gratefulness, that we remained unchanged and together as one at this moment in time.

Your turn!

Jane Dougherty Writes

Lately I’ve been having a lot of fun writing one or two sentence stories and finding suitable pictures to illustrate them. Occasionally I’ve done it the other way round; seen a picture and thought of a story to match it.

Today it’s your turn. I’m posting a painting that I’ve used before to illustrate a poem, Odilon Redon’s Flower-Clouds, and I’m throwing it open to anyone who wants to have a go at writing a one or two sentence story to go with it.

Post it on your blog and leave the link in the comments box below, or leave the story in the box if you’d rather.

If there’s a good response I’m make it a regular challenge with a set day and I might even pick a weekly winner. If nobody’s interested I’ll forget I ever mentioned it.

See what you can come up with this week. I’ll…

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