My Contribution: I was a trustee of Wesley Union A.M.E. Zion Church, a leading member of Brotherly Love Lodge Number 896 and Chosen Friends Lodge Number 43, and the first African American policeman in Harrisburg.
My Legacy: I was a faithful servant to my city, whether by managing a local business, sustaining the hotel industry, investing in the future of Wesley Union A.M.E. Zion Church, maintaining justice as a police officer, or supporting the work of Harrisburg’s secret societies. My upstanding character made me an excellent ambassador of the moral equality of Harrisburg’s Black community. My contributions to Harrisburg as the city’s first African American policeman retain great relevance today, given contemporary conversations about complicated relationships between race and justice in the nation. Further, my investments in Wesley Union A.M.E. Zion Church and Harrisburg’s local chapters of secret societies are evident in the active work that their members still do today.
About Me: “He was the first colored policeman of this city and earned a fine reputation as an efficient, painstaking officer. For upwards of twenty-six years, Mr. Foote had been a consistent, active member of the South Street Wesley A.M.E. Zion Church and was for many years a trustee of said church. He was a widely known worker in secret society circles…” Harrisburg Daily Independent, May 23, 1901.
Full Name: Benjamin J. Foote
Birth Date: March 16, 1833
Death Date: May 23, 1901
Place of Birth: Baltimore, Maryland.
Race: “Mulatto” (1870 Federal Census) and Black (1880 and 1900 Federal Censuses)
Places of Residence: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: N. 4th Street & North Street (1867), 502 South Street (1876-1882), 106 Short Street (1885-unknown), 517 State Street (1886-1887), 127 Cranberry Avenue (1889-1893), 626 Walnut Street (1894-1897), 426 State Street (1899), and 515 E. State Street (1901).
Connection to the Old Eighth Ward: Resident; involved in social political organizations; member of Wesley Union A.M.E. Zion Church.
Family Members: Wife: Ellen Jefferson Foote (1855-1892). Children: Eloise, Fannie, Henrietta, Susan, Anna, Julia, Alfred, Joseph, and Samuel.
Education: Could read and write.
Occupations: Confectioner. Tobacco and Cigar salesman. Hotel porter. Inspector of Elections, Second Precinct (1875). Policeman.
Church Membership: Wesley Union A.M.E. Zion Church
Activism: Dauphin County Equal Rights Club (marshal); Chosen Friends Lodge; Free and Accepted Masons, Number 43 (steward); Grand Order of United Odd Fellows, Lodge Number 896; and Wesley Union A.M.E. Zion Church (trustee).
Connections: Jacob Compton, T. Morris Chester, William Howard Day, John W. Simpson, Charles J. Carter, Zachariah Johnson, David R. Chester, George Galbraith, Joseph Thomas, Joseph Popel, William H. Marshall, John Quincy Adams, Annie E. Amos, David Stevens, John Gaitor, and John P. Scott.