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Black History Stroll 2023: Virtual Exhibit
Additional Information


Charles Lenox

Entrepreneur, Porter, Pie-Seller, Bootblack

Born around 1781, Charles Lenox was the son of Cornelius and Susannah Lenox of Newton, Massachusetts. Though Lenox was an enterprising man, he did not generate a lot of public notice during his lifetime. In fact, his obituary is the first known newspaper article written about him. As a result, his story emerges through the writings and statements of others.

Lenox worked primarily as a porter and bootblack at Harvard. We also know that he sold pies to Harvard students from a mock-epic poem written by Augustus Peirce, which was published in 1842. The satirical poem, titled “The Rebelliad,” recounted a food fight at Harvard that took place in 1818, when Peirce was a student.

Tucked away in a biography of Dr. John Warren is a remarkable piece of information about Lenox: he not only served as a porter at Harvard, he also loaned money to some of the university’s professors. This additional endeavor as a lender saw him later referenced as “the richest man of his complexion in the State.” It also allowed him to purchase a house and 1/8 of an acre of land on South Street—in Harvard Square—from Richard Richardson of Ashby in 1823.


Regarding his personal life, Charles Lenox married Seney (Cinthia) Rogers in 1811. Of the three children they had together, two died young and the third, a daughter named Susan, died at age 22. Seney later died in 1839. In 1851, Lenox married Martha Dickerson; however, he unexpectedly died at their home a few months later in early February 1852.


Charles Lenox died intestate; however, his probate packet was 45-pages in length. Lenox’s widow declined to administer her husband’s estate and instead handed that task over to William L. Whitney, who served on the first Cambridge City Council. According to the inventory, the estate was valued at $14,911.43. Included in the valuation were amounts owed to him by a dozen of Cambridge’s white residents, including Sidney Willard, deputy mayor, and his son, Joseph, the sheriff. The loans, some of which were for mortgages, totaled $10,633.37, including interest. His estate was ultimately settled in 1855.

Though Lenox had no surviving children, his sister Nancy was a well-known pie maker who married a caterer, John Remond, and they operated their business in Hamilton Hall in Salem, Massachusetts. John and Nancy Remond were the parents of six children, two of whom were outspoken and active abolitionists — Charles Lenox Remond and Sarah Parker Remond.

  1. Peirce, Augustus, The Rebelliad; Or, Terrible Transactions At the Seat of the Muses: a Poem In Four Cantos, Auctore Enginæ Societatis Poeta, (Boston: B.B. Mussey, 1842), 54. (The footnote on the page states: “Black man who sold pies and cakes.”)

  2. Excerpt from Edward Everett’s autobiography, titled “Edward Everett’s College Life” in Old and New, Volume IV, July 1871- January 1872, (Boston: Roberts Brothers), 22.

  3. Warren, Edward, 1804-1878. The Life of John Warren, M.D.: Surgeon-general During the War of the Revolution; First Professor of Anatomy And Surgery In Harvard College; President of the Massachusetts Medical Society, Etc., (Boston: Noyes, Holmes and Company, 1874), 320.

  4. Middlesex County, Mass., Probate File Papers, 1648-1871, on, Case 36363


Joshua Bowen Smith

Caterer, Abolitionist, State Legislator

Born in 1813, Joshua Bowen Smith moved to Boston in 1836 where he worked as a head waiter at a hotel. Smith later started a catering company and became known as the “Prince of Caterers,” working all manner of prestigious local events.


Though catering was not an inherently political occupation, Smith sought to align his business practices with his personal beliefs. As a result, his success as a caterer was closely intertwined with his work as an ardent abolitionist and Underground Railroad operative. Using his business to keep an eye out for runaway slaves, Smith was able to offer assistance and sometimes even employment to those in need.

Smith married E.J. Sprague in 1850, and together they moved to Cambridge in 1852. Eventually, with the onset of the Civil War, he devoted his time to providing food for Union soldiers marching southwards.


Smith’s public presence and community involvement saw him elected in 1873 to represent Cambridge in the Massachusetts State Legislature, where he then chaired the Federal Relations Committee. After a life of advocacy and entrepreneurship, Joshua Bowen Smith passed away in 1879.

  1. Friends of Mount Auburn. “Joshua Bowen Smith (1813 – 1879).” Mount Auburn Cemetery. February 1, 2013.

  2. U.S. National Park Service. “Joshua B. Smith.” National Park Service. March 24, 2022. 


Adina White

Woodcarver, Art Teacher, Entrepreneur

Adina White was born in New Richmond, Ohio, around 1861. She grew up in Cincinnati where she studied woodcarving and designed and carved many original pieces. Among her carvings are works displayed at the 1876 Philadelphia International and the 1893 Columbian Exposition, as well as a pulpit for the Bethel AME Church in Indianapolis, Indiana. In the 1890s, Adina White was the only African American woman listed as a wood carver in the Cincinnati city directory.

Later, around 1895 White moved to St. Louis, Missouri and began teaching art. It was there that she befriended Gertrude Wright, a fellow art teacher. While Wright eventually married Clement G. Morgan and moved to Cambridge, Adina White returned to Cincinnati.

Around 1900, White moved to Cambridge where she continued to work as a woodcarver; however, by 1903, she had also opened up shop as a newsagent (located at 402 Massachusetts Avenue, where the Salvation Army building now stands). She owned and operated a number of businesses including the news dealership, an employment office, and a florist shop. 

With the money generated by her businesses, White purchased a house at 8 Village Street in 1927. When Gertrude W. Morgan, her old friend and colleague from St. Louis, became a widow, she moved in with White and was enumerated in the 1930 census.

Adina White died in December 1930. She was well known in the Cambridge community not only for her entrepreneurial endeavors but also for her philanthropy. According to a 1946 Cambridge Chronicle Sun article, “her charities were many.” She left $100 to the Union Baptist Church, the Colored Orphan Asylum in Cincinnati, and to two family members. 

  1. Hopkins, Pauline E. “Famous Women of the Negro Race.” The Colored American Magazine. September 1902, 362-367.

  2. Hopkins, Pauline E. “Adina White’s Work and Ambition.” The Boston Globe. February 4, 1900, 24.

  3. “Cambridge’s Colored Citizens,” Cambridge Chronicle Sun. Thursday, December 12, 1946, 16.

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