The Self-Made Millionaire: Jeremiah Hamilton And Wall Street

Wall Street NY circa 1800
Emeka Ochiagha
August 9, 2021

When American ships docked on Haitian shores in 1828, Jeremiah Hamilton would set his trap. He’d greet the merchants, usually from New York, with a smile. They needed to exchange their money for Haitian currency, and Hamilton was always at the ready. Little did they know, it was counterfeit!

When Haitian authorities ran him off the island, he moved to New York – and escalated his grift.

Wall Street taught him so much. There were still enslaved Black people in America, and Hamilton swore he would do anything to survive and thrive in such an anti-Black, exploitative economic system.

For starters, he made a fortune over-insuring ships and then intentionally drowning them!

He didn’t stop there. It was a great day in court when Hamilton sued the Poughkeepsie Silk Company, legally dissolving it. And because he was a shareholder, he got compensation for the company’s failure!

He even had a hedge fund in 1860, and so many white New Yorkers wanted to join Hamilton’s pool that they would send him gifts to gain his favor. He had these white people wrapped around his finger – and by the end, was one of the wealthiest Black men in America.

Though many of his Black counterparts were still enslaved, Hamilton created his own opportunities. Emulating that creative, determined spirit is essential if we’re going to build possibilities for ourselves as well.

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