To Nashville businessman, lawyer, and career politician James C. Napier, emancipation was only the beginning.
How were Black people to prosper, after all, when, prior to the Reconstruction era, learning to read and write was outlawed for Black folks?
Although Napier aided the Freedmen’s Bureau as commissioner of refugees and abandoned lands in Davidson County, TN, he knew his community deserved better than government handouts.
This brother went after POWER and he got it.
Napier mastered law, economics, and politics - leveraging relationships that earned him influential federal appointments under Presidents Grant, Hayes, Garfield, Arthur, and Taft.
Political connections between Presidents and Black leaders including Fredrick Douglass and Booker T. Washington helped Napier stay true to his ultimate mission, to advocate for the needs of his people.
After serving in the highest federal position then available to a Black man, Register of the Treasury (1911-1914), Napier returned to his hometown Nashville, with more fight in him than ever.
The man of his people organized streetcar strikes that sparked desegregation, established business credit for the first time to Black entrepreneurs through banking institutions such as One Cent Savings and Trust Bank (now Citizens Bank and Trust Company) and invested in Black higher learning institutions Fisk University, TSU, and Meharry.
His generous support of Black banks and educators ensured their survival long after his death in 1940.