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

Cole, James H. and Mary D.

When James Cole died, he was the wealthiest African American in Michigan. Born in 1837, he had been a slave  in Mississippi; he escaped and settled in Detroit.

On his way to freedom, Cole passed through Kentucky and was aided by a slave family. He had been in Detroit a few years when he met a young girl who was a member of the Kentucky family that had helped him during his escape.

Cole and the 13-year-old girl, Mary D. (born in 1850 in Kentucky), were later married and had several children. The couple is listed in the 1880 U.S. Federal Census.

One of their children, Thomas A. Cole, was the father of Florence Cole Talbert, a noted concert and operatic soprano who performed in Kentucky in 1922. The recital took place at State Street Baptist Church, where Talbert was assisted by Charles R. Taylor, a Howard University student, and R. Lillian Carpenter on piano. She was sponsored by the Progressive Choral Society of Bowling Green, KY.

The Cole family fortune was earned by James Cole through his work as a carpenter, blacksmith, and real estate investor. James H. Cole was also owner of a funeral business that is still in operation today [see the James H. Cole Home for Funerals, Inc. website].

For more see P. Turner, "In retrospect: Florence Cole Talbert - Our Divine Florence," The Black Perspective in Music, vol.12, issue 1 (Spring, 1984), pp. 57-79. For more on Florence Cole Talbert, see "The Progressive Choral Society of Bowling Green, Ky...," The Crisis, April 1922, vol. 23, issue 6, p. 274; Lost Sounds: Blacks and the Birth of the Recording Industry, 1890-1919, by T. Brooks; and The Negro Trail Blazers of California, by D. L. Beasley.

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Warren County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Bowling Green, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Outside Kentucky Place Name

Item Relations

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Cole, James H. and Mary D.,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed May 24, 2024,

Last modified: 2021-02-03 19:18:07