In the Business of Leadership
Isaac Myers's (1835 - 1891) life after 1865 represented an example of the anticipation with which most of black Baltimore viewed the end of slavery and legal inequality in the U.S. Myers stood near the center of a leadership cadre charged with shaping the conversion not only from slavery to freedom, but more importantly perhaps, from freepeople to equal citizen. Social work, political activism, entrepenuership, inter-racial cooperation, intra-community networking, represented the vehicles for meeting this charge.
A caulker by trade, this native Baltimorean was born free like so many other blacks in the city (the overwhelming majority after the 1820s). The caulking trade specifically, and ship-building/maritime industries in general of Baltimore were historical inter-racial, using freeman and slaves simultaneously. By the close of the U.S. Civil War (1861 - 1865) with the consequent end of slavery, blacks were systematically pushed out of this type of employment to make room for growing numbers of whites in the city. This reality led to the organization by Myers and others of the Chesapeake Marine Railway and Dry Dock Company.
The historical significance of Isaac Myers rises above the establishment of this company, however. He was a key Republican organizer during the high point of black involvement with the party in Baltimore. He also did completed the groundwork for organization of black workers into labor unions during the late-nineteenth century. In fact, until his death, he represented the broad possibilies and reluctant opportunities open to blacks in the unique situation of nineteenth century Baltimore.
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© Copyright February 03, 1998 Maryland State Archives