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Indy's Prominent Colored Citizens, 1880, Part 5

Anderson Lewis, blacksmith, freed from Slavery by 13th Amendment


Another interesting man is Anderson Lewis**, a blacksmith. He was born in slavery, and for thirty years of his life he was held as a chattel in Jefferson County, Kentucky. He was set free by the adoption of the thirteenth amendment, and came to this city sixteen years ago [1863-64] in search of work. Although the slave system had left him no opportunity of earning money for himself, it had given him a good trade, for the masters well understood the value of trained mechanics to their own pockets.

 

Anderson Lewis's second-great-grandson was Harry Anderson Radliff II, who worked as a producer for CBS News show "60 Minutes" for 26 years. Here, correspondent Scott Pelley gives a tribute to Radliff after his death in 2015. (Courtesy of CBS)


 

Mr. Lewis reached Indianapolis at 3 o’clock one cold morning, and wandered from shop to shop all day in search of work. He was told that he was not wanted on account of his color, or in one case that he might be hired if he could bring a band of blacksmiths with him, as the white smiths would not work with him. Mr. Lewis is not a man of many words, but he has determination and pluck. At last, late in the afternoon, he told a German blacksmith, Affenstranger* by name, that he must and would have work. That man told him to return in three weeks and he would give him work. Lewis went back to Kentucky, brought his family with him, and punctually in three weeks presented himself before the blacksmith. He worked in that shop as a journeyman for nine years, at the end of which time he became a partner in the firm, which was afterwards dissolved by the death of the German. He had secured a steady and lucrative patronage, and he now owns two houses and has built a larger shop, where carriage making and repairing is added to the blacksmithing. His present partner is an Irishman, an encouraging sign of the decrease of malignant color phobia on the part of our Irish citizens.

Mr. Lewis thinks that in no State to-day have the colored people a better chance for earning an honest living than in Indiana. He says that it makes mo difference now what is a man’s color if he only has principle. The histories of the lives of these colored citizens, many of whom have come here out of bondage, are full of pathos and excitement.

Mention can be made here of only a few out of the many about us. But enough has been given to show that these

people have the same feelings, the same principles, the same aspirations as ourselves. Their lives are marked often by fealty, devotion and a high degree of self-sacrifice.

For themselves, they are glad to recognize the equal opportunities that have been wrenched for them out of the tight grasp of color-prejudice and race-hatred. They feel that one thing is very necessary for them here to-day—to be admitted to clerkships and to manufactories, where they can master some mechanical trade.

It is a fact that almost no business like manufacturing or merchandise is owned by them. Formerly it was said that the colored people would not patronize one another. Now, however, they are beginning to feel that other people of their own color are just as good as themselves if they behave as well.

It is time that race-prejudice should be cast out from among us; that in every arena of life an equal chance should be given to all the children of men. — L.G.H.


 

* There are a few possibilities as to which German blacksmith named Affenstranger this article refers. I zeroed in on these two men, who are possibly brothers or cousins, but one problem is their surnames are spelled differently in the 1870 census.

This census shows Josiah Affenstranger, 44, was born in 1826 in Pennsylvania and was living in Ward 3 with his wife, Mary, 33; daughters Cecelia, 8, Virginia, 6, and Mary, 4; and a son, Edward, 2. He is a blacksmith with a personal estate valued at $500 and real estate valued at $20,000.

Also living in Ward 3 was Joseph Affanstranger, 42, who also was born in Pennsylvania in 1828; his family includes Mary, 30; daughters Clara, 8, Virginia, 5, and Mary A., 3; and son Ellwood J., 10 months.


Joseph is also a blacksmith with a personal estate valued at $1,000 and real estate valued at $10,000.

Additionally, Anderson and Virginia Lewis' daughter, Irene, born in n1863, married James D. Bagby on Oct. 31, 1878. The couple had two daughters, Ada, born in 1879, and Genevieve, born in 1882. James died in 1888, and in 1913, Irene married the Rev. Fotion Ecter.

Finally, I just discovered that Anderson's great-great-grandson was Harry A. Radliff II, who died in 2015 in Stamford, Connecticut. He was a producer for CBS News' 60 Minutes for 26 years. Here is his obituary.

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