The Reverend and Mrs. Henry Cunningham,
free persons of color


The Cunningham House, built 1810, in downtown Savannah, at the cornerof Houston and State Streets

Henry and Elizabeth Cunningham werefree persons of color built the above house in 1810. It lies across thestreet from Second African Baptist Church, founded in 1802, where ReverendCunningham was pastor from 1803 to 1842.

Betsy Cunningham was also a freeperson of color and a successful businesswoman in her own right. She wasone of the leading black seamstresses of her day. In the years before clothescould be purchased from the rack all stylish women had their own seamstressesand stylish men had their tailors. These were among the few occupationsin which people of color could earn an above average living. Some becamequite affluent.

Under Georgia law there were manyrrestrictions placed on free people of color as the intent was to discouragethis class and to keep them mindful of their inferior status. They hadto register each year and had to have a white guardian, a person of theirchoosing. Even to be the owner of real estate at that time was no meanaccomplishment which accounts for the fact that relatively few blacks becameowners in a society where most blacks were still enslaved until GeneralSherman and his army arrived in late December 1864.

The Cunninghams died many yearsbefore freedom come to African Americans in Georgia. They are buried inLaurelGrove South Cemetery.

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