We celebrate athletes, civil rights leaders and others during Black History Month, but there is often very little conversation about black legacy in business.
Our guest today is Alfred A. Edmond Jr., Senior Vice President and Executive Editor-at-Large of BLACK ENTERPRISE, responsible for providing brand, marketing and content leadership as a member of the multimedia company’s senior management team.
In today’s conversation, Alfred and I discuss a few of the black business legends who paved the path for today’s generation. Alfred shares their stories, his connection to them and several black business books we should be reading to learn more about these business legends.
Connect with Alfred:
- Why Should White Guys Have All The Fun by Reginald Lewis
- Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire
- How to Succeed in Business Without Being White: Straight Talk on Making It in America
- Black Enterprise Titans of the BE100s: Black CEOs who Redefined and Conquered American Business
- Building Atlanta: How I Broke Through Segregation to Launch a Business Empire
Reginald F. Lewis
Reginald F. Lewis (December 7, 1942 – January 19, 1993), was an American businessman. He was the richest African-American man in the 1980s. Born in Baltimore, Maryland, he grew up in a middle-class neighborhood. He won a football scholarship to Virginia State College, graduating with a degree in political science in 1965. He graduated from Harvard Law School in 1968 and was a member of Kappa Alpha Psi.
- Reginald F. Lewis was born in Baltimore, Maryland
- Reginald F. Lewis did a landmark leveraged buyout of Beatrice International Foods in 1987
- It was the largest offshore leveraged buyout ever, by anybody of any background
- Reginald F. Lewis created the first billion dollar black-owned company called TLC Beatrice International
- Pioneers: Reginald F. Lewis and the Making of a Billion Dollar Empire
- Biography: Why Should White Guys Have All The Fun
- His book inspired two or three generations of black corporate lawyers, black entrepreneurs, and black financiers
Arthur George Gaston (July 4, 1892 – January 19, 1996) was an American businessman who established a number of businesses in Birmingham, Alabama, and who played a significant role in the struggle to integrate Birmingham in 1963. In his lifetime, Gaston’s companies were some of the most prominent African-American businesses in the American South.
- A.G. Gaston built his business empire in Birmingham, Alabama at the height of Jim Crow
- He owned Booker T. Washington Insurance Company, a bank, a hotel, radio station properties
- BOOK: Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire
- He was a mentor to the John Johnsons, and Earl Graves, Sr in totally adverse circumstances
Janice Bryant Howroyd (born September 1, 1952) is an entrepreneur, educator, ambassador, businesswoman, author, and mentor. She is founder and Chief Executive Officer of The ACT-1 Group, the largest privately held, woman owned workforce solutions company founded in the U.S. The Act-1 Group also holds a Minority ownership status, and is a multibillion-dollar (USD) award-winning international Talent and Talent Technology enterprise with multiple divisions operating in 19 countries with over 17,000 clients and 2,600 employees worldwide.
- Janice Bryant-Howroyd owns the largest black female owned business, called The ACT-1 Group
- Janice Bryant-Howroyd owns the 2nd largest black business
- The ACT-1 Group did $2.8 billion in revenue in 2016
- She is a proud HBCU alum of North Carolina A&T State University
- Her net worth is estimated at $420 million
- Janice Bryant-Howroyd on Instagram
Herman J. Russell
Herman J. Russell, the founder and former Chief Executive Officer of H. J. Russell and Company, was a nationally recognized entrepreneur and philanthropist, as well as a highly influential leader in Atlanta. Over the course of fifty years, Russell amassed one of the nation’s most profitable minority-owned business empires, turning a small plastering company into a construction and real estate conglomerate.
- Herman J. Russell is the Founder of H.J. Russell Construction
- If you look at the Atlanta skyline today, you’ll see much of the work of H.J. Russell Construction
- He was one of the first leaders of the Chamber of Commerce
- He mentored other black owners in the construction business and helped them do business around the country
- Accomplished all he did with a noticeable speech impediment
- He never missed a payroll in the time running his company
- His Book: Building Atlanta: How I Broke Through Segregation to Launch a Business Empire
Earl G. Graves Sr.
Earl Gilbert Graves Sr. (born January 9, 1935) is an American entrepreneur, publisher, businessman, philanthropist, and advocate of African-American businesses. A graduate of Morgan State University, he is the founder of Black Enterprise magazine and chairman of the media company Earl G. Graves, Ltd. He is the current director for Aetna and Executive Board member of the Boy Scouts of America.
- Earl Graves, Sr. is the Founder of Black Enterprise Magazine
- Earl Graves Sr is the business icon that made the stories of other notable black business icons possible
- It is impossible to overstate Earl Graves’ impact
- Proud Alum of Morgan State University
- His son Earl Graves, Jr. is now the CEO of Black Enterprise
- His book: How to Success in Business Without Being White
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