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Kavanaugh was a freed slave from Richmond, KY, who made his way to Texas in 1837 and settled in Houston. He was one of the many barbers in the Republic of Texas; barbering ranked second to farming as an occupation for freemen. For some residents, there were too many freemen and there was fear of an uprising by the freemen, aided by abolitionists. A law was enacted that required all freemen to leave; Kavanaugh appealed to the Texas Congress that he be allowed to remain in the Republic of Texas. No action was taken by Congress and Kavanaugh left the area some time after 1846 when he appeared on the Washington County, Republic of Texas Tax List, and the Poll List. For more see the Black Studies Research Sources: Race, Slavery, and Free Blacks - Series 1: Petitions to Southern Legislatures, 1777-1867, Reel 15; H. Schoen, "The Free Negro in the Republic of Texas," Chapter IV, Southwestern Historical Quarterly, vol. 41, issue 1 [Online]; A. F. Muir, "The Free Negro in Harris County, Texas," Southwestern Historical Quarterly, vol. 46, issue 3, [Online]; and "Memorial of Nelson Kavanaugh" in the Texas State Library.
Subjects: Barbers, Freedom, Migration West
Geographic Region: Richmond, Madison County, Kentucky / Houston, Texas