Who was Francis Lewis Cardozo? He was an Black American clergyman, politician, and educator.

Francis L. Cardozo was born on February 1, 1836, in Charleston, South Carolina. The son to Lydia Weston, a free black woman, and Isaac Cardozo, a Portuguese Jewish man who worked at the federal customhouse as a custom officer. Francis parents had a common-law marriage, due to the state law of Charleston prevented their marrying. Francis had one brother, Thomas W. Cardozo.


Francis Cardozo early education was at the free black school in Charleston. The one and only school that was established for free Blacks in America. While attending school Cardozo worked as a carpenter in a shipbuilding. I 1858, at the age 21, Cardozo moved to Scotland to continue his education at the University of Glasgow, where he excelled. His intention was to prepare for ministry. Cardozo took Latin in his first year, Greek and Logic in his second year, and Ethics and Mathematics in his third year. After three years of studying at the University of Glasgow, Cardozo attended Edinburgh Theological Seminary, in London. He was ordained a Presbyterian Minister before returning to the United States in 1864. Living back in the U.S Cardozo became pastor of the Temple Street Congregational Church in New Haven, Connecticut. Cardozo Married Catherine Rowena Howell. Together the couple had six children, four sons, and two daughters.

In 1865, after the American Civil War and the abolishment of slavery, Cardozo returned to education in South Carolina, where he became deeply involved in setting up schools for the newly freed Blacks in the South. He returned to Charleston, South Carolina as a agent of the American Missionary Association (AMA). His brother Thomas was superintendent of the (AMAS), and both of the Cardozo brothers served as principal of the Avery Normal Institute, the first secondary school for Blacks. Thomas served as the institute first principal from 1865 to 1866, and Francis Cardozo as the second from 1866 to 1868.


In 1868, Cardozo became active in the Republican Party and was elected as a delegate to the 1868, South Carolina Constitutional Convention. He served as Chair of Education Committee. Cardozo lobbied for integrated public schools. Cardozo was later elected to Secretary of State, becoming the first Black American in United States to hold a statewide office position. He reformed the South Carolina Land Commission, which distributed limited amount of land to former slaves.

In 1872, at the age 36, Cardozo was elected as State Treasurer two years later in 1874, legislators unsuccessfully tried to impeach Cardozo for his refusal to cooperate with corrupt politicians. However, Cardozo was reelected twice as State Treasurer, in 1874 and 1876. In 1877, Federal Troops were withdrawn from the South and white Democrats regained control of the State Government, and on May 1, 1877, Cardozo was pushed to resign from office. Six months later in November of 1877, the Democrats prosecuted Cardozo and others from the Republican Party for conspiracy. Despite lack of and questionable evidence, Cardozo was still found guilty. He served almost a year in prison. Two years later in 1879, after the Federal Government dropped charges against some of the accused Cardozo was pardoned by 78th Governor of South Carolina, William Dunlap Simpson (October 27, 1823 – December 26, 1890). Following the pardon Cardozo relocated to Washington, D.C., where he accepted a position with the Treasury Department.

In 1884, at the 48, Cardozo returned to education. He became principal of the Colored Preparatory High School or

Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C., Cardozo introduce the students to a business curriculum. He also made it a leading school for Black Americans. Cardozo retired in 1896, at the age 60.


Seven years later, in July 22, 1903 Francis Lewis Cardozo died at home in Washington, D.C., he was 67.

Twenty-five years after his death, in 1928, the Department of Business Practice renamed a High School in Northwest Washington, D.C. to Cardozo Senior High School in Francis Lewis Cardozo honor and memory.


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