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119 Con­ clu­ sion More Com­ pli­ cated Than That Born a free black in New­ ark, Ohio, Scott spent his youth in a part of the na­ tion where ra­ cism ex­ isted, but of a ­ stripe dif­ fer­ ent from that found in Amer­ ica’s South. ­ Ohio’s laws for­ bade slav­ ery and in­ den­ tures, but they did not guar­ an­ tee equal treat­ ment, equal op­ por­ tu­ nity, or even ci­ vil­ ity for its black res­ i­ dents. While Ohio es­ tab­ lished pub­ lic ­ schools, it did not in­ clude equal ac­ cess for black chil­ dren. In­ stead, Ohio ­ treated ­ blacks as res­ i­ dents ­ within the state, ­ rather than as cit­ i­ zens with all the ­ rights and re­ spon­ sibil­ ities that cit­ i­ zen­ ship im­ plied. This was an en­ vi­ ron­ ment, how­ ever, that en­ cour­ aged ­ blacks to think for them­ selves, even if it re­ quired them to do it se­ cretly. New­ ark made Scott aware of his color, his race, and the prej­ u­ dice that came from ­ whites who be­ lieved them­ selves super­ ior to all other races. His rel­ a­ tives and his men­ tors in the bar­ ber­ ing trade pro­ duced in him a de­ ter­ mi­ na­ tion to shape his own fu­ ture, even if that meant that he would need to do it in a dis­ tant place. They en­ cour­ aged him to keep se­ crets and to keep his ­ worlds sep­ ar­ ate. And they gave him a trade, one that pro­ vided him a ­ ticket to es­ cape his ­ smalltown or­ i­ gins and use his tal­ ents upon a ­ larger stage. He ­ sought that ad­ ven­ ture first on board river­ boats that plied the Ohio and Mis­ sis­ sippi Riv­ ers. He ­ worked on these boats for sev­ eral years be­ fore the Union­ closed the riv­ ers to river­ boat traf­ fic at the be­ gin­ ning of the Civil War. ­ Scott’s river­ boat ex­ pe­ ri­ ence intro­ duced him to ­ trades that were legal as well as il­ le­ gal, with river­ boat cap­ tains and crew mem­ bers act­ ing as co­ con­ spi­ ra­ tors in a game they ­ played with civil au­ thor­ ities at each port. River­ boat cap­ tains op­ er­ ated in two ­ worlds. They were hote­ li­ ers, sa­ loon keep­ ers, ­ cruise lead­ ers, and cap­ tains of the table, ser­ vic­ ing the rich and fa­ mous and ca­ ter­ ing to their needs and wants. As long as their boats were ­ docked, they ad­ hered to land and town laws, but once in mo­ tion, an­ other more re­ laxed set of rules ap­ plied. They made the rules and per­ mit­ ted what their cus­ tom­ ers de­ manded. Conclusion 120 Those were pow­ er­ ful les­ sons for Scott, as they would be for any­ one of sim­ i­ lar circum­ stances who ­ reached the age of ma­ jor­ ity dur­ ing the Civil War years. Cor­ rup­ tion on the river and in river towns was en­ demic and tol­ er­ ated. Some­ openly ­ flouted the laws, only to be for­ given by a fine or by graft paid to the right per­ son. ­ Filled with mil­ i­ tary per­ son­ nel and the flot­ sam that fol­ lowed river com­ merce, Cairo tol­ er­ ated a cul­ ture of ­ self-indulgence, bor­ der­ ing on the il­ le­ gal and im­ mo­ ral. Scott ­ joined that world by ­ choice and, in a sense, by ne­ ces­ sity. Few ­ well-paying oc­ cu­ pa­ tions were open to young ­ blacks, and few were able to own and op­ er­ ate busi­ nesses that re­ quired sub­ stan­ tial fi­ nan­ cial out­ lay and that­ whites per­ mit­ ted. Scott had ­ learned, how­ ever, that there al­ ways were in­ ves­ tors for prof­it­ able en­ ter­ prises, re­ gard­ less of their legal ­ status. River­ boat cap­ tains, wait­ ers, ste­ wards, bar­ tend­ ers, and even bar­ bers par­ tic­ i­ pated in a game to ­ fleece cus­ tom­ ers of their ­ wealth, and oth­ ers tol­ er­ ated these dis­ rep­ u­ ta­ ble en­ ter­ prises be­ cause they ­ viewed them as en­ ter­ tain­ ing. To sur­ vive and be­ come suc­ cess­ ful...


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