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

Thomas, India P.

(born: 1843  -  died: 1899) 

India P. Thomas was born in Alabama, according to the 1880 U.S. Federal Census, and it is thought that she died in Louisville, KY, in the 1890s, according to author V. Alexandrov in his book, The Black Russian, p. 29. India Thomas was the second wife of Lewis Thomas; three sons were in the family in 1880 when they lived in Mississippi: Yancy, John, and the youngest, Frederick Thomas, the "Black Russian" referred to in V. Alexandrov's book. According to Alexandrov, there was also a daughter named Ophelia. The Thomas family owned more land than any other African Americans in Coahoma County, MS, until they were tricked and lost the land during a lengthy legal battle. In 1890, the family moved to Memphis, TN, and Lewis and India managed a boarding house. In October of 1890,after Lewis had gone to bed, one of the renters he had had a disagreement with, attacked him with an axe; a few hours later, Lewis died from the injuries. India remained in Memphis for at least another year; she is listed as India P. Thomas, colored, the widow of Louis, on p. 963 in vol. 30 of Dow's City Directory of Memphis, for 1892. According to Alexandrov, India came to Louisville in 1892 and was employed as a cook for a white jeweler; she is listed as a colored cook at 733 4th Street, on p. 1092 of Caron's Directory of the City of Louisville for 1893. Prior to her move to Kentucky, India's stepson Frederick Thomas had left Memphis. India spent the remainder of her life in Louisville. In the 1896 Louisville directory, she is listed as Indiana Thomas on p. 1154, and she is listed as India P. Thomas, colored, domestic, on p. 1102 in the 1899 directory. Her stepson Frederick Thomas would leave the United States and become a wealthy expatriate living in various European countries; Moscow; and Constantinople. He would on occasion claim Kentucky as his home, though there is no indication that he ever lived in Kentucky; Frederick Bruce Thomas was born in Coahoma County, Mississippi, the son of Lewis and Hannah Thomas, and in May of 1915, he became a Russian citizen [source: The Black Russian, by V. Alexandrov, pp. 43, 47, 112 & 113]. Frederick Thomas lived in Moscow around the same period that Emma E. Harris, an actress and singer, lived there. When Frederick Thomas opened the Maxim (theater) in Moscow in 1913, one of the acts he booked was Brooks and Duncan [Billy Brooks and George Duncan]. In 1918, Frederick Thomas was desperate to get his family out of Moscow, which had been taken over by the Bolshevik Regime. Leaving behind all of his wealth, Frederick Thomas and his family made their way to Constantinople. When he attempted to leave Constantinople, one of the persons who blocked the move was Kentucky native Charles E. Allen, the vice-consul of the consulate general's office in Constantinople. Frederick Bruce Thomas would never return to the United States; he lost his wealth a second time, went to prison for debt, and died in Constantinople on June 12, 1928. He is buried in an unmarked grave. His stepmother, India P. Thomas, died in Kentucky some time during or after 1899.

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Item Relations

Cited in this Entry

NKAA Source: The Black Russian
NKAA Source: Dow's city directory of Memphis (serial)
NKAA Source: Caron's directory of the city of Louisville (annual)
NKAA Entry: Harris, Emma E. "The Mammy of Moscow"
NKAA Entry: Duncan, George

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“Thomas, India P.,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed May 22, 2024,

Last modified: 2017-09-27 20:02:52