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

Bryant, Isabella

(born: 1890) In 1917, United States District Court Judge John Raymond Hazel ruled that Isabella Bryant was a U.S. citizen because her father, a former slave from Kentucky, had become a U.S. citizen when slaves were emancipated in Kentucky. At the time, Isabella Bryant was living on Caledonia Avenue in Rochester, New York. Her case was represented by lawyer Edwin C. Smith, who had asked the courts to grant Bryant the writ of habeas corpus. Isabella Bryant knew that her father was born in Kentucky around 1854. His name was Henry Bryant, he was a Methodist, and was born in the United States according to the Canada Census of 1901. He was the husband of Ellen Bryant and the family of seven lived in Hamilton, where Isabella was born around 1890.

Her father was never naturalized as a Canadian citizen; therefore, the courts determined that he was an American citizen and so was his daughter; therefore, Isabella Bryant could not be deported from the United States. The U.S. Department of Labor had described Isabella Bryant as an unwed mother of two children; supposedly, the first child was born in Canada and the second in the United States. Isabella Bryant had visited her sister, Mrs. Matilda Taylor, in July of 1915. Her sister lived at 11 Egerton Street in Rochester, NY [source: Immigration Card 446-E ; 07/25/15].

Isabella Bryant's immigration card describes her as an African(Blk) woman standing 5 feet 8 inches tall. Also on the card is her mother's name and address: Ellen Johnson, 101 Carolina Street, North Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. It is not known how long Isabella Bryant stayed in the U.S. before returning to Canada, but in August of 1915 she immigrated to the U.S. She arrived at the port of Buffalo, NY, according to the List Or Manifest of Alien Passengers Applying for Admission, Sheet No. 14, a U.S. Department of Labor, Immigration Service form. Isabella Bryant is listed as African (Blk), and her Canadian address is the same as her mother's address in North Hamilton. She entered the U.S. and lived in Rochester, NY, for two years, then the U.S. Department of Labor ordered her deported because she was said to be an undesirable alien who would probably become a public charge.

Isabella Bryant refused to leave the U.S. and hired lawyer Edwin C. Smith. The case was another example of the citizenship question concerning former slaves. Also, the Immigration Act of 1917 [info] had passed in February of 1917 to further ban undesirables from entering and/or remaining in the United States. In Isabella Bryant's case, having a child out of wedlock had made her an undesirable alien, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. This was the time period during World War I, just prior to the United States sending American troops into battle. The ruling by Judge John R. Hazel allowed Isabella Bryant to remain in the United States. She was still living in Rochester, NY, in 1920 and is included in the U.S. Census, where she is listed as white and single; she was employed as a domestic. There are no children listed with Isabella Bryant on the immigration forms or in the 1920 Census. For more see "Slave's daughter is an American," The Post Express, 04/12/1917, p. 33.

Outside Kentucky Place Name


Cited in this Entry

NKAA Source: The Post express (newspaper)

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Bryant, Isabella,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed December 4, 2020,

Last modified: 2017-11-30 22:59:05