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Lewis Latimer Lewis Howard Latimer was born in Chelsea Massachusetts on September 4 1848 six years after his parents George and Rebecca Latimer had run away from slavery in Virginia They were determined to be free and that their children be born on free soil Because of his light complexion George was able to pose as a plantation owner with the darker-skinned Rebecca as his slave Shortly after arriving in Boston Massachusetts he was recognized as a fugitive and jailed while his wife was taken to a safe hiding place The arrest was protested vigorously by the community Frederick Douglass a former slave who had escaped to Massachusetts several years earlier and abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison spoke forcefully against the arrest There was a trial and the attempts to recapture George and return him to Virginia caused considerable agitation in Boston When the trial judge ruled that Latimer still belonged to his Virginia owner an African-American minister paid 400 for his release Although free George was still extremely poor working as a barber paper-hanger and in other odd jobs to support his wife three sons and one daughter Lewis Latimer the youngest child attended grammar school and was an excellent student who loved to read and draw Most of his time though was spent working with his father which was typical of children in the 19th century In 1857 the Supreme Court ruled that a slave named Dred Scott could not be considered a free man although he had lived in a free state George Latimer disappeared shortly after the decision became known Because he had no official papers to prove he was a free man he possibly feared for his safety and that of his family With his father gone and his mother struggling to keep the family together Lewis falsified his age and joined the US Navy in 1864 when he was sixteen years old When the Civil
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