Childhood and Education
Born on December 29, 1808, in Raleigh, North Carolina, Andrew Johnson was raised in relative poverty. His father, Jacob Johnson, died when he was only three. His mother, Mary McDonough Johnson, was eventually remarried to Turner Dougherty, a man that Johnson and his brother, William, never liked.
Johnson's mother bound him and his brother out as indentured servants to a tailor. In exchange for working and learning the trade, the pair received their food and lodging.
In 1824, after two years of working for James Selby, the brothers ran away and thereby broke their contract. On June 24, 1824, their “master,” James Selby, announced their escape in an ad in the local newspaper. He offered a $10 reward for anyone who would return the brothers to him.
Having successfully escaped indenture, Johnson opened his own tailoring shop at the age of seventeen to make money. At the same time, he taught himself to read — in fact, he never attended school at all.