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The Most Successful Black Entrepreneurs throughout History 
By Kimberlee Buck, Contributing Writer  
Published February 8, 2017

blackentrepreneurscollage

Joseph Randolph

In 1810, Joseph Randolph opened an African Insurance Company to help support African Americans and provide benefits to those who did not want to join the mutual aid Free African Society.

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Clara Brown

Clara Brown, who was a former slave, moved to Colorado and opened a laundry business. Later, she used that money to invest in real estate, owning 16 lots in Denver, seven houses in Central City and other property around Colorado.

David Ruggles

David Ruggles was known as an abolitionist and journalist and played a role in the liberation of slaves as part of the Underground Railroad. Ruggles is widely known for opening the first Black-owned bookstore in New York City.

William Johnson

In 1820, William Johnson became a barber’s apprentice in Natchez, Mississippi. Later, he became the owner of a barber shop and spent his spare time teaching young Black men about barbering.

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Maggie Lena Walker

Maggie Lena Walker was the first Black woman to charter a bank in the U.S., opening St. Luke Penny Savings Bank, where she served as president.

Joseph Cassey

Joseph Cassey who resided in Philadelphia, owned a wig, perfume, and barbershop business.

Annie Malone

Annie Malone founded a commercial and educational business by the name of Poro College. The business focuses on cosmetics for Black women. Malone also used the business to teach people about Black cosmetology, which helped her to create over 75,000 jobs for women. Later, she developed a chemical that helped straighten Black women’s hair. Today, she is known as one of the first Black female millionaires in the United States.

John H. Johnson

Johnson is known as a renowned businessman, he was the founder of the Johnson Publishing Company which was home to both “Ebony” and “Jet” magazine and the Negro Digest.

Madam C. J. Walker

Sarah Breedlove who is known to many by the name Madam C.J. Walker, created a line of beauty and hair products for Black women through her company, Madame C.J. Walker Manufacturing. Similarly to Annie Malone, Walker was one of the first self-made millionaires; it is said Walker first learned about Black cosmetology through Malone’s Poro College.

Reginald F. Lewis

During the 1980’s, Reginald Lewis was considered the wealthiest Black man. In 1983, he founded a venture capital firm by the name of TLC Group L.P. In 1987, he bought Beatrice International Foods and renamed it TLC Beatrice International which became the first Black-owned company to have more than $1 billion annual sales.

Categories: Business | Legends | National
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