By Marc Albritton
When Australian author Shane White wrote “The Prince of Darkness” in 2015 he unlocked a story that all though common place at the time, is less known today. “The Prince of Darkness” is the story of Jerimiah G. Hamilton, the first Black person in the United States to amass one million dollars. Not only did he amass a million dollars but he invested in Manhattan real estate, owned a mansion in New Jersey, had an office on Wall Street, traded in stock and bonds, sued and bested the richest white man in the world; and married a white woman, but he did it during a time when the majority of Black people in the Americas were enslaved.
The Prince of Darkness not only is a reference to his skin color by the white population of his day, but also to the way he dealt business. At time when there were very few laws, rules, and regulations governing the New York Stock Exchange, in the world of shady business, and underhanded dealings in dark corners, to be twice as good as white people, Jerimiah G. Hamilton was the Prince of Darkness. His origins were no clearer. Because he spoke fluent French some suspect he was from Haiti or at least his parents were. However, Jerimiah always proclaimed to be from Virginia although that has never been substantiated. Even so, where did he learn to speak French fluently enough where he would travel to Haiti in the 1820’s and be caught counterfeiting Haitian currency?
Having escaped with his life and freedom, Hamilton arrives in New York in 1828, after some more dealings, he makes money and files for bankruptcy. But by 1844, Hamilton is back in business. According to the records researched by Shane White, Hamilton bought one hundred shares of New York and Harlem Railroad, fifty of New York and Providence and Boston Railroad, and 200 shares of the Long Island Railroad. Jerimiah G. Hamilton lived his life without fear, without inferiority complex. He didn’t bow or crease in front of the extreme amount of racism he had to contend with. When a prominent white man struck Hamilton with a cane, Hamilton struck him back. When they had him arrested, Hamilton “persuaded” the police to arrest them also. Jerimiah G. Hamilton was not a man to be toyed with. He established himself on Wall Street and beat the best at there own game.
When Hamilton died in 1875 his funeral was held at his Manhattan townhouse located at 122 East Twenty-ninth Street. The most widely circulated papers in the country ran headlines announcing his death with lead ins such as “The Richest Colored Man in the Country,” “A Colored Speculator,” “Wealthiest Colored man in the United States,” and the New York Herald ran a 500-word obituary, according to Shane White, 2015. In modern day accounts, his fortune would have been roughly one billion dollars.
Today, partly because of Jerimiah G. Hamilton, and partly because of Covid19, many Black people have made the decision to begin trading in stocks. Cell phone apps such as the popular “Robinhood,” “TD Ameritrade,” and “WeBull” have demystified the process and made it available to anyone with a cell phone and a bank account. Popular YouTube chat groups started by young black millionaires such as “The Come Up Series” teach the average, everyday Black person how to buy, sell, and trade stocks and options. The stock market is not a complicated place. Even the worlds most successful investor and one of the ten wealthiest Americans states, “I’m not a genius. I just find spots where I’m smart and I hand around those spots. If you have an I.Q. of 150 you can give 100 of it away because you’re not going to need it.” It doesn’t take an office, employees, a license, or even a business permit. However, it does take practice and study to become effective and proficient.
Every Black person doesn’t have to be an entertainer, barber, beauty parlor owner, or restaurateur. We can choose the path that Jerimiah G. Hamilton blazed almost 200 years ago. Then, it could have cost him his life. Today, it can cost as little as five dollars to open a trading account. We need to expand our minds and businesses past the traditional paths that everyone else is choosing. We can master and succeed at anything we put our minds to. In 1821 Jerimiah Hamilton had to be the “Prince of Darkness.” But in 2021 we can be the masters of light and the champions of our own destiny.
“Without confidence you are twice defeated before you have begun. But with confidence you have won before you have even started.” – Hon. Marcus Garvey