Benjamin Montgomery was born into slavery in 1819 in Loudon County, Virginia. Montgomery obtained employment at a general store owned by his master Joseph Davis. He would eventually take over the entire purchasing and shipping operations of the store. During those days, merchandise was shipped by boat on the rivers connecting counties and states. However a timely shipment was not guaranteed since the depths of water in different spots throughout the river made navigation difficult.
Anthony Bowen, who purchased his own freedom from slavery in Maryland, founded the first YMCA chapter for African Americans in 1853. This was one of the first organizations for African Americans. Bowen was an abolitionist and advised President Lincoln to enlist African American troops to fight in the civil war. He was also the first African American to work in the US Patent Office.