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Prince of Darkness: The Untold Story of Jeremiah G. Hamilton, Wall Street's First Black Millionaire

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  166 ratings  ·  42 reviews
In the middle decades of the nineteenth century, Jeremiah G. Hamilton was a well-known figure on Wall Street. And Hamilton was African American. Although his origins were lowly, possibly slave, he was reportedly the richest black man in the United States, possessing a fortune of two million dollars, or in excess of two hundred and fifty million dollars in today’s currency. ...more
Paperback, 368 pages
Published October 4th 2016 by Picador (first published October 13th 2015)
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Average rating 3.67  · 
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Lulu
Jun 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jeremiah G. Hamilton was a beast! They didn't like him because he came from out of nowhere and beat them at their own game! I have so much respect for Shane White for basically making something out of nothing. He searched through newspaper articles and was able to give us a picture of this forgotten (intentional?) historical figure. Although I learned a lot, Hamilton is still somewhat enigmatic.
Nancy Oakes
good book. Like a 3.7 rounded up to a 4.

(thanks, St. Martin's Press!!)

It's very interesting that Shane White would choose Jeremiah Hamilton as the subject of his study, since there is very little information on this man to be had. Even though he was "Wall Street's First Black Millionaire," "sui generis, typical of nothing," almost nothing is known about him, which seems quite odd -- after all, in the 1850s, an African-American man with the kind of wealth Hamilton had amas
...more
Biblio Files (takingadayoff)
There are several possible reasons that no American historian has written about Jeremiah Hamilton, the first black American millionaire. There isn't much information about him -- he didn't leave diaries or letters and didn't write any memoirs. His history is scattered among intermittent court documents and newspaper articles. And while he suffered a lot of racist abuse during his life, he did not have black friends, or make a point of helping black neighbors. His own family was large -- he marri ...more
Christine
Jeremiah G. Hamilton was man of mystery. No one is sure where he was born – was it Virginia or Haiti – even he himself changed the story as it suited. His questionable start in business – passing counterfeit money in Haiti put a price on his head on that island. Defrauding insurance companies over boat accidents, buying and selling property with bad notes and airing his grievances in court and the newspapers made him notorious in America. It also made him a millionaire in New York City in the ea ...more
Theophilus (Theo)
Feb 08, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic story of a man who has been hidden from American history. The idea of a black man making money on Wall Street is something that school children should be taught. Although many of his business dealings seem shady, they were not uncommon for many of the major players in the investment market then, and even now. A great book. It is easy to see the author was determined to research and gather as much material as possible, from a myriad of legitimate sources: court records, newspaper articl ...more
Rai-mon Nemar Barnes
The bottom line is that J.G Hamilton was as formidable as tough or tougher as any businessman of his day. We’ve told over and over that Americans of African decent simply couldn’t get ahead after slavery and yet they didn’t just get ahead, many, did much more. Antebellum America wasn’t ready for him. Hell, I’m not sure we’d be ready for him now.
Bianca
This is an interesting yet weird biography of Jeremiah G. Hamilton. Weird in that there is no real fact about him, just bits and pieces from 3rd party perspectives and a few court cases. There are no surviving pictures of this man, nor any history about his birth or childhood, because of this it felt more like a history of the financial district of New York and a overall racial history of antebellum New York than a bio of someone.
But with as little is known about Mr. Hamilton, I do believe that
...more
Katie/Doing Dewey
Summary: My best nonfiction read so far this year, this author won me over with his enthusiasm and ability to share uncertainty in an honest and engaging way.

Jeremiah G. Hamilton was, as the subtitle says, the first black millionaire in America. He was also one of the first millionaires in America without qualification, despite incredible racial prejudice at the time. Living in NYC during the abolition of slavery, followed by a period with Jim Crow-style codified discrimination, he still manage
...more
AlTonya
Jul 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’d never heard of Jeremiah Hamilton, before coming across Prince of Darkness on the shelves at my library. I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that none of the vast number of resources in the library of the HBCU (Historically Black College/University) where I worked, had no mention of a man who had amassed the kind of wealth and notoriety Hamilton had in a time when it was unheard of for a black man to claim such success. Moreover, I found little mention of Hamilton's existence referenced a ...more
Book
Oct 21, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
With ‘Prince of Darkness’ Shane White, the Australian Professor of History specialized in African-American history, managed to write a powerful biography of man that is not known these days, yet as a black man he reached up to the very top, in times when such things were almost impossible to achieve.

His main protagonist, Jeremiah G. Hamilton, was a well-known figure on Wall Street though what was not known, then and now, is that Jeremiah was African American. Yet for a colored man it seems surr
...more
Ginni
I don't think anyone could possibly have written a better biography of Mr. Hamilton, and "the black man" (as Mr. White calls him countless times) himself is to be commended for making his way so well in a society that was completely set up against him. But...this is some REALLY dry reading.

The research is meticulous, but even the most thorough historian can't find records that don't exist--and, as White reminds us over and over, Jeremiah G. Hamilton's past is pretty spotty. We don't
...more
Ava M.
Oct 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was eye opening for me personally!
Amona
Dec 01, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jeremiah G. Hamilton was a piece of work! I think in his heart he actually thought he was white and although society tried to prove him otherwise he yet and still refused to believe the contrary.
Mandy
Jun 26, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is not exactly a fun read read although a very admirable one, and I am grateful to the author for attempting it at all – it must have been daunting writing a biography of someone about whom virtually no records or documentation are available, and none at all in the subject’s own voice. Well done to Shane White for unearthing what information there is. Jeremiah G Hamilton was the first African American to become prominent on Wall Street and was reportedly the richest coloured man in the US a ...more
R K
Jan 07, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I didn't really hate this book. In fact, I really admire the author and the dedication he put into the book. Shane White had his hands full when he decided to write about a black millionaire during the 1800s. It wasn't an easy task and that in itself speaks fortunes about humanity.

The truth is, there is little historical information about Jeremiah Hamilton. In fact, most historians often don't know about his existence. White had a tough time tracking anything associated with him because most hi
...more
Shenard Robinson
Thoroughly enjoyed reading about the life of this unknown man during antebellum America. What promise his legacy ushered forth for many African Americans whether acknowledged or known. I found it fascinating that Douglass knew of this man, and his power within the New York financial scene in addition to his interracial marriage, as mentioned in the Frederick Douglass Paper, especially since the abolitionist called on blacks to do more for the uplift of the race. A must read, and re-read as White ...more
Gio
May 04, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first black American millionaire, Jeremiah Hamilton, makes for a compelling story that every historian should want to cover. Yet, no one did before Shane White. There's a reason for that: almost no information about Jeremiah survives to this day. White bases his biography on newspaper articles at the time, but these only cover a few lawsuits he was involved in. After reading the book, I still have no idea who Jeremiah was or how he achieved success. To add insult to injury, the newspaper art ...more
Christopher Cormier
Hidden history?

Not really. History that has been ignored for various reasons. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to read about a fascinating black capitalist who was Trump before Trump or Jay-Z before Jay-Z. A man whose life illuminates how blacks began the process of "passing" and demonstrates that Black History is much more than slave ships and poverty. Also an unmatched description of New York City pre-Civil War.
Wayne Bass
The book grew on me as did Mr Jeremiah Hamilton. I learned a lot about the life and tribulations of blacks who lived in NYC during the 1800's as well as info about historical events at that time. I reccommend it!
Al Berry
Behind Every Great Fortune is a crime;

For Jeremiah G Hamilton; who was sentenced to death in Haiti in Absentia; it was multiple crimes. America’s first black millionaire built his financial empire through Counterfeiting and insurance fraud.
Rick Hammond
This is tricky, I’m giving this book a less than favorable review, based on the lack of available info about the subject not because a lack of ability of the author.
Jimmy Black
this is the most racist sh*t I have read that was well disguised. The author spent too much time focusing on Mr. Hamilton's origin and race rather than business tactics that lead to his sucess
Christine Sears
Nov 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
African American millionaire in the Civil War period. Definitely charted his own course through early capitalism and racism.
Jim OBrien
I wanted to like it but...
Patty
An excellent nonfiction book about Jeremiah Hamilton, a historical figure who is sadly barely known these days but was a New York City celebrity in the 1830s to 50s. White is very upfront about the fact that he had little material to work with; no one preserved Hamilton's letters, diaries, business books, etc, and so White is restricted to mentions of Hamilton from newspapers and court cases. Luckily Hamilton made frequent appearances in both. And yet despite this limitation, the story White man ...more
James Molet
Dec 25, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In Prince of Darkness, The Untold Story of Jeremiah G. Hamilton, Wall Street’s First Black Millionaire, Shane White, the Challis Professor of History and an Australian Professorial Fellow in the History Department at the University of Sydney specializing in African-American history, provides a vivid account and reveals the larger than life story of Jeremiah G. Hamilton, a black man – or perhaps more accurately, a mulatto – who defied every convention of his time. White presents a stunning portra ...more
Kent
The story of Jeremiah G. Hamilton is certainly fascinating, as are White's insightful comments into the history of New York City and race in the Antebellum North.
I greatly enjoyed White's matter of fact telling of his research process at various points in the narrative and inclusion of some of his conclusions even if there is not enough evidence to fully prove the conclusion.
However, White does not always keep his entertaining writing going at all times. Throughout, the book becomes
...more
Gaia
Dec 30, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shane White's "The Prince of Darkness," uses court records, newspaper articles, and even library records to bring light to the extraordinary life of the mysterious Jeremiah G. Hamilton.

Jeremiah G. Hamilton was almost lost to history. It appears his only descendants are in Europe and traceable to his sole grandson.

White states that not a single photograph of Jeremiah remains, he was either of African ancestry or mixed African ancestry, and known to shave his hair (racial fodder for the newspape
...more
J
At the heart of Shane White's quest to uncover the untold story of Jeremiah G. Hamilton is the question of how to turn snippets of a mostly unknown man's life into a book. The answer seems to be by reconstructing the time in which the man lived. White's quest is admirable if a little misguided. As interesting as Hamilton's life is, the book about him is sadly lacking in most cases because the source material does not appear to exist in a substantial way. What's left is a book that falters as muc ...more
Lori Shafer
I am always on the search for a history topic that is new and basically unknown. Prince of Darkness is such a find. White tells the story of a man ahead of his time, but completely forgotten. Jeremiah G. Hamilton was an African American who became a millionaire of Wall Street. Unlike many wealthy African Americans of the post-civil war period who made their fortune selling to other former slaves, he made his money dealing with other men of Wall Street regardless of race.

I found Hamilton's story
...more
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SHANE WHITE is the Challis Professor of History and an Australian Professorial Fellow in the History Department at the University of Sydney specializing in African-American history. He has authored or co-authored five books, including "Playing the Numbers", and collaborated in the construction of the website Digital Harlem. Each project has won at least one important prize for excellence from inst ...more
“Far too often, historians treat African Americans as if white segregationists had succeeded, as if blacks lived in their own separate world, physically and culturally removed from everyone else. In effect, African Americans become segregated for a second time in the telling of their history, easily marginalized from the main American story, relegated to the footnotes.” 0 likes
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