John Jones: Outspoken Civil Rights Activist and Tailor Shop Owner

1 Posted by - March 20, 2022 - Black History, BLACK MEN, History, LATEST POSTS

John Jones was born a free man in Greene County, North Carolina. He was born to a black mother and German father. His mother feared that, despite the fact that he was considered free by virtue of her status, his father might try to enslave him. While he was still very young, she apprenticed Jones to a man named Sheppard, who taught him the tailoring trade. Sheppard took Jones with him to Tennessee and apprenticed him to Richard Clere, a tailor.

In 1841  Jones met Mary Jane Richardson, the daughter of free blacksmith Elijah Richardson. The Richardson family moved to Alton, Illinois, while Jones remained in Memphis for three years to complete the requirements of his apprenticeship and to secure himself financially. Jones moved to Alton, Illinois, and married Mary Jane Richardson. They later moved to Chicago where Jones started his well-known tailoring business.

Jones was strongly against slavery as well as the Black Codes or Black Laws, in Illinois. These laws denied rights to blacks. Jones published a 16-page pamphlet entitled, “The Black Laws of Illinois and Why They Should Be Repealed.” His house and office were used as stops on the Underground Railroad.

Jones not only housed slaves in protest of slavery, but he also fought slavery by using the law. Over time, Jones became one of the richest blacks. He also was elected twice as the Cook County Commissioner, a position he held from 1872 through 1875. While in office, he helped secure the law that abolished local segregated schools. After his term, Jones continued to run his tailor shop until he died in 1879.




  • Lyndia Black October 1, 2018 - 1:28 am

    Exactly, where Mr. Jones, lived in Chicago, I am not sure of, but it was near what is now the downtown area. There is suppose to be a marker indicating the location, but I have yet to find it. John Brown, and some of his men, met with him to help finance the Harpers Ferry Raid. What occurred, I am not sure of, but John Brown, did stay in his home for a couple of days. John Jones, and his wife, are buried in Oakwood Cemetery, on the South Side of Chicago. Jones, was also, the first Black man to own a business in downtown.

  • Dr Bruce Purnell January 1, 2021 - 5:11 pm

    I am his Grandson and above is a Facebook page dedicated to him