John W. Locks was a highly respected individual who dedicated his life to challenging the social institutions of Baltimore, through his personal life, professional career and political leadership. J. W. Locks was also known for giving back to his community. Locks lived out the advice that his friend Frederick Douglass gave in his speech at the celebration of the Fifteenth Amendment: earn and save money, educate your children and get into politics. He appenticed himself as a carpenter, learned the trade of caulking, and became a foreman for a number of well-known shipbuilders. He saved enough money to invest his wages in a hack business in 1865. In 1866, he helped found the the Chesapeake Railway and Dry Dock Company and served as the company's president. Locks was at the hub of a circle of African American civic leaders and his neigborhood was the center of a thriving business and political community. When Locks died in 1884, he was the oldest and wealthiest African American hackman in Baltimore. Through the life of John Locks, one can better understand nineteenth century Baltimore and discover sites related to that city's sparsely documented African American society.
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