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Most of us have heard about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. or Rosa Parks, but not many know about a local figure named George Putnam Riley.
Mr. Riley moved to Tacoma, Washington in the 19th century working as a barber but found interests in local business and politics. In 1869, he along with 14 others, came up with the idea to create the Workingmen’s Joint Stock Association (WJSA) - the purpose was to gather funds to purchase real estate and divide it proportionately.
Through the WJSA, Riley was able to purchase 67 acres of land in Tacoma – now known as the Hilltop neighborhood.
Mr. Riley also purchased 20 acres in Seattle, currently known as Beacon Hill. This of course this was unheard of during a time when many African Americans had very little rights.
Growing up in the Hilltop neighborhood, it’s stories like these that make me realize how Black History is so deeply rooted in our community. As a third-generation entrepreneur, I believe it’s important that we recognize those in our community who helped pave the way for many of us today!