No, this is not a book about vampires. It’s not even fiction. It’s a biography of Jeremiah G. Hamilton, Wall Street’s first black millionaire. Prince of Darkness is what is contemporaries – or rivals – called him. Because this Hamilton was kind of ruthless. And by ‘kind of’, I mean ‘really’.
(All reviews are spoiler-free unless otherwise noted.)
(From Goodreads) In the middle decades of the nineteenth century, Jeremiah G. Hamilton was a well-known figure on Wall Street. And Hamilton was African American. Although his origins were lowly, possibly slave, he was reportedly the richest black man in the United States, possessing a fortune of two million dollars, or in excess of two hundred and fifty million dollars in today’s currency.
In Prince of Darkness: The Untold Story of Jeremiah G. Hamilton, Wall Street’s First Black Millionaire, a groundbreaking account, eminent historian Shane White reveals the larger-than-life story of a man who defied every convention of his time.
I wanted to read some actual black history for Black History Month, and went with the book that’s been sitting on my shelves the longest and fit the bill. I’m honestly not sure why I picked this one up in the first place, but it was probably during one of my Book Outlet history binges. Still, I was curious about a historical figure that was a notable trailblazer but still managed to disappear from the history books. Granted, Jeremiah Hamilton wasn’t exactly MLK, but I think anyone who knows who Cornelius Vanderbilt is should also know his greatest rival. Especially since he was a black immigrant who came in and beat the white men at their own game.
Shane White pieced together this biography from very scant historical resources, but it still feels pretty comprehensive. We’re never going to know everything about Jeremiah Hamilton – who I can’t help but mentally refer to as “the other Hamilton” – but I know a lot more about him after reading this book. And he was kind of a badass. He understood his position in the world and then decided he didn’t really care. And while he did do some unsavory things – like counterfeiting Haitian coins – he is kind of an inspiring figure.
For almost half of this book, I was pretty engrossed, especially considering this is a historical biography. But, I will admit, this was pretty dry. And I’ve read my fair share of history books. I also thought it could have been pared down a bit. For a book with not a huge amount of indisputable historical data, I felt like the author elaborated a little too much, making this book longer than it really needed to be.
★★★☆☆ – All in all, I enjoyed Prince of Darkness. It’s not my favorite biography ever, but if you’re looking to explore some obscure historical figures, or learn more about black (immigrant) trailblazers, I’d recommend it.
Prince of Darkness available in bookstores now. And the paperback is currently over half off on Amazon.
To get the audiobook for free, use this link to sign up for a free trial of Audible and choose Prince of Darkness as one of your two free books.
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