Dudley C. Jones

By 1830, Louisville, Kentucky, was home to a sizeable free black community, which grew to nearly one-fifth of the Black population of Louisville by 1860. One member of that community was Dudley C. Jones, a free man of color born in 1805. Jones worked as a cabinetmaker in downtown Louisville.

Little documentation of Jones’s life exists. The 1850 United States Federal Census listed Jones as a cabinetmaker living in Louisville. A December 17, 1853, article in the Louisville Daily Courier included a mention of Jones. The article stated,

“An Arrest – Yesterday D. C. Jones, a free negro, and cabinetmaker by trade, was arrested, and will undergo an examination on the charge of aiding the slave woman of J. G. Mathers to run away. It will be recollected that the woman was missing for some time, having been secreted by another free negro, but did not succeed in getting out of the city. She says that this man incited her to run away.”

Newspaper article detailing the arrest of Dudley C. Jones
Louisville Daily Courier, December 17, 1853

Police arrested Jones and charged him for his role in aiding Mary, the enslaved woman, during her self-emancipation attempt. Mary testified against Jones in police court and Jones was sent to jail to await a circuit court trial. Evidence has yet to be found documenting Jones’ experiences in later trials.

By 1858, Jones had returned to life as a cabinetmaker. He built the chairs for the pulpit of the First African Baptist Church, later known as the Fifth Street Baptist Church, for use in their new building on the corner of Fifth Street and Walnut in Louisville. According to newspaper accounts, “The pulpit is an admirable piece of work and furnished with noble antique mahogany chairs manufactured by D. C. Jones, a colored cabinet-maker.”

Newspaper article describing pulpit and chairs made by Dudley C. Jones
Louisville Daily Courier, September 10, 1858

Jones died in Louisville at the age of 78 and was buried on February 20, 1883.

Hudson, J. Blaine. “‘Upon This Rock’—The Free African American Community of Antebellum Louisville, Kentucky,” The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society 109, no. 3/4 (2011): 295–326.
Blackett, R. J. M. The Captive’s Quest for Freedom: Fugitive Slaves, the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law, and the Politics of Slavery (Cambridge ; New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2018), 190–91.
“An Arrest,” Louisville Daily Courier, December 17, 1853.
“A New Edifice – African Baptist Church,” Louisville Daily Courier, September 10, 1858.