Little Known Black History Fact: The Life of Benjamin Holmes

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After the war was over, Holmes’ services to General Columbus were complete so he took a job working for a local barber. When the barber died, he left the estate to Holmes, making him the first black estate administrator in Tennessee. Unfortunately, the estate was of no value and Holmes was left in debt of $300.

By 1868, Holmes was attending Fisk University. He would pay for his tuition by teaching 68 students in Davidson County for $30 a month. He would even teach in a more dangerous area of town, where a shot was fired during a class session. Holmes would work hard at Fisk, be named the chapel’s deacon and become an original member of the Fisk Jubilee Singers. Although he often bumped heads with the Jubilee’s director, he would eventually arrange his own farewell concert in London.

Benjamin Holmes died at age 28 of tuberculosis in Nashville in 1875.  His life would be told in a children’s book called “Ben and the Emancipation Proclamation” by Pat Sherman and Floyd Cooper.

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