I’ve done a really bad job of keeping my posts consistent. I think my daily post plan was too aggressive. Truly, I love selecting the African Americans that I am highlighting this month. This is a, “it’s not you – it’s me,” moment if ever I saw one.
To salvage the week at least, I’m calling attention to a local African American that is not widely well known. I’ve found the following brief article to share in this post.
Samuel Ballton, 1838-1917 – Entrepreneur, musician, “Pickle King of L.I.”
Born into slavery in Virginia, escaped in 1862 from forced labor (repairing the Confederacy’s Virginia Central Railway), then made two attempts to rescue his wife and family, the second successful, enlisted in the 5th Massachusetts Cavalry Regiment (U.S. Colored Troops), which helped occupy Richmond in 1865, guarded enemy prisoners, and ended its service in Texas. Honorably discharged, he disappears from the record, until 1873, when he reappears in Greenlawn, L.I., NY, where his business and real estate acumen began to really shine, along with the diversification of his many business interests and private and government contracts. Ballton acquired, leased, and rented land growing at one point 1.5 million cucumbers and starting a pickle trade. He became one of a leader in the growth and development and political life of Greenlawn. Several of the homes he built are still standing today. There is an annual Greenlawn Pickle fest held by the Greenlawn-Centerport Historical Society in his honor. Read more about Samuel Balton’s fascinating life.
For all the popular historical African Americans remembered through history, Long Island is rich in forgotten or nearly forgotten African American history. Researching their stories and working to tell them, even in this small blog, is a celebration of their lives, accomplishments.