William Noland 'runs' for mayor
Madison got its first permanent black resident in the early 1850s when William Noland, a free
man from New York, brought his family here. Two of his sons became the first black residents to
be born in Madison. Noland was a popular and educated fiddler and entrepreneur known as "The
Professor." In 1857 the governor of Wisconsin nominated Noland to the position of notary public,
but the secretary of state refused to allow it because of Noland's race. Instead, he made ends
meet as a jack-of-all-trades barber known for his hair products, sold ice cream and fish, made
hominy, worked as a bookkeeper, owned a bakery and a cleaning and dyeing shop at the corner of
Main and Fairchild streets. In 1866, Noland's name was put on the Democratic ballot for mayor
-- a nasty prank done a week after black people were given the vote in Wisconsin. His opponent
was Republican Elisha "Boss" Keyes, a powerful politician with a reputation for corruption.
Noland, a Republican loyal to the party of Abraham Lincoln, didn't want to be on the ballot and
voted for his opponent. Keyes beat Noland, 691 to 306.