Black History Month: John P. Parker
Photograph of the John P. Parker House, dated May 1910
John Parker (1827-1900) was a free African-American inventor who served as a conductor on the Underground Railroad. Most of what is known about him comes from his autobiography entitled His Promised Land.
According to the autobiography, Parker's father was a wealthy white man and his mother was a slave like him. In 1845, at the age of eighteen, he purchased his freedom. In 1848, he married his wife and the next year they moved to nearby Ripley, Ohio.
The Duke University web site writes:
It was in Ripley, a hotbed of abolitionist activity, that his work on the Underground Railroad began and flourished. By his own count, he helped over 400 slaves to freedom. By day, however, Parker was a successful businessman; in 1865 he purchased an iron foundry, and he patented several popular inventions.