From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Clay, Henry (former slave)

(born: 1861) 

Henry Clay was born to parents who were enslaved in Louisville, KY. In 1892, Henry Clay left for New Orleans to join a railroad construction crew that was transported to Guatemala, Central America. The crew of 75 men were to build a railroad from Puerto Barrios to Guatemala City. The pay was to be in Guatemalan silver at $10 per day per worker, but none of the men got paid because the contractor ran off with the silver and left the crew stranded. Clay remained in Guatemala for 39 years. He was one of the last three crew members still alive when he returned to the United States in 1931. Many of his fellow crew members had died fighting during the revolts in Guatemala; revolutionists were recruited with the promise of $150 in silver and a rifle. Clay had preferred to fish for a living rather than fight as a Guatemalan revolutionary. For more see "Old Negro returns, ends 39-year exile," New York Times, 07/15/1931, p. 21.

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Jefferson County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Louisville, Kentucky in Wikipedia.


Cited in this Entry

NKAA Source: The New York times (newspaper)

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Clay, Henry (former slave),” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed October 28, 2020,

Last modified: 2019-05-15 16:56:12