John H. Paynter (1862-1947) wrote Fugitives of the Pearl (1930), a popular history of the largest known mass escape attempt of enslaved people in the United States. It took place in Washington in 1848. The book is based on news accounts and oral histories passed on by Paynter's family. Paynter was a descendant of the Edmondson sisters, who were part of the attempted escape.

Paynter's book was expanded from a 1916 article he published in The Journal of Negro History, which was later serialized in the Washington Tribune.

Paynter served in the U.S. Navy and then worked as a clerk in the Treasury Department. He was also a land developer. Around 1900 he lived for a few years at this Capitol Hill address, and by 1915 he had moved to 701 51st Street, NE, in Deanwood, where he and his family lived until his death in 1947. Paynter was chair of the board of directors of the Universal Development Land Company, which created the Suburban Gardens amusement park in Deanwood. In addition to Fugitives of the Pearl, Paynter published poetry and a number of nonfiction books.

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