Dr. E. P. Read

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Dr. E. P. Read, circa 1908

Dr. E. P. Read, also known as E. Parker Read, PhD or Edward Parker Read (1868 - 1940), was a renowned conjure doctor, astrologer, herbalist, pharmacist, shop-keeper, author, and businessman whose practice flourished from 1890 until his death. His public career began in Lawnside, New Jersey, a town founded by abolitionists for free persons of colour and escaped slaves to live in peace. In the optimistic aftermath of the Civil War and Emancipation, he became a judge in the 2nd District Small Cause Court and a notary public in Center Township, Camden County, New Jersey.

In 1889, Read had became the first person of colour to own and operate a drugstore; this was in Petersburg, Virginia. In 1890, be became the first Black businessman to open a pharmacy in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. By 1894, he was manufacturing and selling herbal remedies. His products included Japanese Hair Vigor and Quick Relief Female Pills. His best seller was the Divinum Herb-Mineral Remedium, a combination of 37 potent herbs and minerals selected to treat a variety of common complaints. He compounded formulas in his herb laboratory, using a balance-beam scale to weigh out ingredients, and also sold raw herbs by the packet. By the early 1920s, Dr. Read had extended his property ownership to include several buildings on South Street and Lombard Street in Philadelphia. It was then that he came to true national prominence as an herbalist, conjure doctor, and astrologer. He manufactured old-school spiritual supplies such as Hin-Doo Devil Chaser Incense and his full line of more than 1,000 botanical remedies included everything from Peppermint to John the Conqueror roots. He invested in the Eureka Sanatorium Sanitation Association, which purchased the Virginia Medical Mineral Springs and operated it as a spa and resort that served a Black clientele during an era when all other such venues were segregated, with a Whites-only policy, and he sold mineral salt tablets obtained by evaporating the waters of the Virginia Medical Mineral Springs, "Your Drink To Health." He also sold numerological dream books for lucky number gambling as well as conjure spell-books, such as "Legends of Incense, Herb, and Oil Magic" by Lewis de Claremont, and he stocked de Claremont's line of Oracle Products conjure oils in his shop, The Indian Drug Store.

Read was a colleague of the great African American social philosopher W. E. B. Du Bois, and was influenced by him to take up the cause of civil rights activism. In 1913 he published Watchman: The Light of Civilization, The Leverage of Wealth, a political pamphlet "Dedicated to the 50th Anniversary of Negro Freedom in America." He also wrote and published "The National Afro-American Encyclopedia," a detailed and continually updated directory that compiled the names and addresses of all Black court clerks, pastors, and school superintendents in America, plus the locations and dates of incorporation of all Black churches, businesses, hotels, fraternal organizations, schools, colleges, and professional organizations in the country. The dual purposes of this book were to celebrate Black pride and progress, and to provide a way for Black motorists to move from town to town and find safe places to stay, gain employment, and do business in a time of oppressive racial prejudice and segregation. When he passed away at the age of 72, Dr. E. P. Read left a lasting legacy of spiritual, magical, and political practice that has been an inspiration to those who have followed in his footsteps.


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