Hamilton, Jeremiah J. (1838–ca. 1905)

By: Alwyn Barr

Type: Biography

Published: February 1, 1995

Updated: November 9, 2020

Jeremiah Hamilton, a Black political and civic leader, was born in July 1838 in Tennessee. He arrived in Texas as a slave in 1847. After emancipation he married a woman named Ellen in 1867, and they had seven children, of whom five survived. Hamilton lived in Bastrop County and became a spokesman for Black workers as early as 1866. He acquired land in the county and served as a land trustee for Blacks. He had become literate even as a slave and established an early school for African Americans after the Civil War. In 1866 he served as a secretary for the Texas State Central Committee of Colored Men, which opposed White paternalism and worked with the Freedmen's Bureau. He was selected for the board that registered voters in Bastrop County during 1867. Thereafter he ran successfully in 1869 for the Texas House of Representatives in the Twelfth Legislature as a Republican. As a legislator he generally favored bills to advance law enforcement, education, and civil rights.

After his legislative term Hamilton remained in Austin, where he worked primarily as a carpenter. His greatest achievement as a craftsman came with the construction of an unusual triangular house, which still stands in Symphony Square. In part because of health problems, he turned to the newspaper business; he was owner and editor of the Austin Citizen in the mid-1880s and the National Union in the early 1890s, and in 1903 was an agent for the Austin Watchman. All three papers circulated primarily in the Black community.

Hamilton also remained active as a leader in political and civic affairs. He served as one of the vice presidents at the state Republican convention in 1876 and as one of the secretaries for the party convention in 1878. When the first Colored Men's State Convention met in 1873, he was a member of the committees on credentials and address. He became a delegate to Black state and national conventions in 1883. At a similar state meeting in 1884 he served on several committees and gave the opening address. He appeared for the last time in a leadership role as a member of two committees during the Black state convention of 1891. Hamilton apparently died early in the twentieth century, for his name disappeared from the Austin city directories after 1905. See also BLACK STATE CONVENTIONS.

Virginia Erickson and Sue Brandt McBee, Austin: The Past Still Present (Austin Heritage Society, 1975). Washington, D.C., New Era, June 16, 1870. E. W. Winkler, Platforms of Political Parties in Texas (Austin: University of Texas, 1916).

  • Journalism
  • Peoples
  • African Americans
  • Newspapers
  • Editors and Reporters
  • Politics and Government
Time Periods:
  • Reconstruction

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Alwyn Barr, “Hamilton, Jeremiah J.,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 28, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/hamilton-jeremiah-j.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

February 1, 1995
November 9, 2020

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