Remembering Francis Lewis Cardozo, An American Pastor, Politician, and Educator

Remembering Francis Lewis Cardozo An American Pastor Politician and Educator
Francis Lewis Cardozo


Francis Lewis Cardozo was a pastor, educator, and politician who was born free on February 1, 1836 in Charleston, South Carolina. Cardozo’s father, Isaac Nunez Cardozo, was a Sephardic Jew, and his mother, Lydia Williams Weston, was a free woman of color. Because interracial marriages were not permitted in South Carolina, the couple’s relationship was termed a common-law marriage. Three boys and two girls were born to the couple. Cardozo and his brothers were assigned to a private school for minority pupils.


Cardozo worked as a carpenter and ship builder towards the end of his education. In 1858, he used his own money to board a ship bound for Scotland and enroll in the University of Glasgow, where he began studying Greek and Latin. When he returned to the United States in 1864, he had completed his studies at Edinburgh Theological and London seminary and was an ordained Presbyterian minister. On December 20, 1864, Cardozo married Catherine Rowena Howell, the minister of the Temple Street Congregational Church in New Haven, Connecticut. The couple has six kids.

Cardozo returned to Charleston in 1865 as an agent for the American Missionary Association (AMA), an abolitionist organization founded in 1846 in Albany, New York. He was the superintendent of an AMA-established school when it was transformed into The Avery Normal Institute. The institute concentrated on educating black teachers.

Cardozo, a Republican Party member, became involved in Reconstruction politics and was chosen as a delegate to the South Carolina State Constitutional Convention in 1868, where he chaired the education committee. He advocated for the abolition of the plantation system and the establishment of racially integrated schools. Cardozo’s remarks helped him become South Carolina’s first black secretary of state.

Cardozo was elected state treasurer of South Carolina in 1872, and he was re-elected in 1874 and 1876 before resigning in 1877. He was impeached in 1874 after refusing to comply with corrupt officials. The newly-elected Democratic leadership indicted him for corruption in 1877. In 1878, Cardozo moved to Washington, D.C., and began working for the United States Treasury Department.

In 1884, he became principal of the Colored Preparatory High Institution, where he was responsible for implementing a business curriculum and leading the school to become one of the nation’s premier high schools for Black youths. He stayed at the school until 1896 and died on July 22, 1903, in Washington, D.C., at the age of 67. Cardozo’s great-granddaughter, Eslanda Cardozo Goode, married singer Paul Robeson in 1921, and the Department of Business Practice in Washington, D.C. was renamed Cardozo Senior High School in his honor in 1928.


Written by How Africa News

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