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Title: Prince of DarknessNovel Nuggets Button
Author: Shane White
ISBN: 9781250070562
No. of Pages: 368
Genre: Nonfiction
Origins: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: 13 October 2015


“In the middle decades of the nineteenth century Jeremiah G. Hamilton was a well-known figure on Wall Street. Cornelius Vanderbilt, America’s first tycoon, came to respect, grudgingly, his one-time opponent. The day after Vanderbilt’s death on January 4, 1877, an almost full-page obituary on the front of the National Republican acknowledged that, in the context of his Wall Street share transactions, ‘There was only one man who ever fought the Commodore to the end, and that was Jeremiah Hamilton.’

What Vanderbilt’s obituary failed to mention, perhaps as contemporaries already knew it well, was that Hamilton was African American. Hamilton, although his origins were lowly, possibly slave, was reportedly the richest colored man in the United States, possessing a fortune of $2 million, or in excess of two hundred and $50 million in today’s currency.

In Prince of Darkness, a groundbreaking and vivid account, eminent historian Shane White reveals the larger than life story of a man who defied every convention of his time. He wheeled and dealed in the lily white business world, he married a white woman, he bought a mansion in rural New Jersey, he owned railroad stock on trains he was not legally allowed to ride, and generally set his white contemporaries teeth on edge when he wasn’t just plain outsmarting them. An important contribution to American history, Hamilton’s life offers a way into considering, from the unusual perspective of a black man, subjects that are usually seen as being quintessentially white, totally segregated from the African American past.”

Prince of Darkness by Shane White

I really wanted to love this fascinating story of a black man who managed to break the racial barriers to become one of the wealthiest men of his generation. Unfortunately, while the facts are interesting, they were put together in such a way that I found myself unable to read more than a page at a time without falling asleep. Hamilton lived quite the life for a free black man, but the actual specifics are frustratingly few. This leads to more speculation that one might like about a subject who was a frequent visitor to the New York court system. Mr. White does an adequate job of presenting the barriers Hamilton faced but all in all, this is a disappointing snoozefest.

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