From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Harper, Nathaniel R.

(born: 1846  -  died: 1921) 

One of the first two African Americans to practice law in the Louisville courts, Nathaniel R. Harper was the first African American judge in Kentucky. He established the Harper Law School in his office. Nathaniel R. Harper was born in Indiana, the son of Hezekiah and Susan Harper who was born in 1828 in Kentucky. The family lived in Centre Township in Indianapolis, IN, and according to the 1850 U.S. Federal Census, they were free and the family was supported by Hezekiah who was a blacksmith. Nathaniel was married to Maria [or Mariah] Harper, born 1851 in Pennsylvania. Kentucky Governor W. O. Bradley appointed Nathaniel Harper a member of the State Industrial Bureau. He was to investigate, organize, and encourage members of his race toward industrial ventures. Harper traveled the state assisting in the establishment of industrial societies. In 1872, Harper was co-founder of the newspaper Louisville Weekly Planet. Harper was owner of the Tallaboo Dramatic Company, and in 1912 the company was touring central Kentucky. For more see Kentucky Encyclopedia 2000; The Owl: The Newsletter for Employees of the University of Louisville, vol. 17, issue 1 (February 2002), p. 2; "Kentucky's Negro Lawyers," New York Times, 11/28/1871, p. 5; The Commercial history of the Southern States by Lipscomb and Johnston; and see the paragraph "Lawyer N. R. Harper's "Tallaboo"..., within the column "At Kentucky's Capital" in Freeman, 06/01/1912, p.4.


Cited in this Entry

NKAA Source: The Louisville weekly planet (newspaper)
NKAA Source: The Kentucky encyclopedia (online full text)
NKAA Source: The Owl: The Newsletter for Employees of the University of Louisville
NKAA Source: The New York times (newspaper)
NKAA Source: The Commercial history of the southern states covering the post-bellum period Kentucky
NKAA Source: The Freeman [Indianapolis Freeman] (newspaper)

Related Entries Citing this Entry

NKAA Entry:  Black, Isaac E.
NKAA Entry:  Central Law School (Louisville, KY)
NKAA Entry:  Louisville Weekly Planet (newspaper)
NKAA Entry:  African American Lawyers/Attorneys, Kentucky, 1880-1940
NKAA Entry:  African American Lawyers/Attorneys, Kentucky, 1880-1940: Court Cases

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Harper, Nathaniel R.,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed January 28, 2023,

Last modified: 2017-07-19 17:51:23