African American Entrepreneurs

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Elleanor Eldridge

1809

Elleanor Eldridge went to live with her sister in Adams, Mass. While there, she and her siblings started a business of weaving, washing and soap boiling.

The African Insurance Company of Philadelphia

1810

The African Insurance Company of Philadelphia is the first black-owned insurance company in the United States.

Thomas Day

1818

Thomas Day of North Carolina is considered the first widely known furniture and cabinetmaker in the United States.

Freedom's Journal

1827

Samuel Cornish and John B. Russwurm published Freedom's Journal, the first African American-owned and operated newspaper.

David Ruggles

1834

David Ruggles, abolitionist activist, opened the first African American bookstore in the nation, in New York City.

Frederick Douglass- The North Star

1847

Frederick Douglass established the abolitionist paper The North Star in Rochester, N.Y., and developed it into the most influential antislavery paper published during the antebellum era.

Clara Brown

1859

Clara Brown moved to Central City, Colo.; and established the first laundry, bought real estate, and invested in Colorado gold mines.

C.H. James Co.

1883

Charles H. James started the C.H. James Company as a bartering business that evolved into a wholesale fruit and produce distribution house serving independent grocers and restaurants.

Savings Bank & Capital Savings Banks

1888

Two of America's first black-owned banks, the Savings Bank of the Grand Fountain United Order of the Reformers, in Richmond, Va., and Capital Savings Bank of Washington, D.C., opened their doors.

North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Co.

1898

Charles Clinton Spaulding, Aaron McDuffie Moore and John Merrick founded the first black-owned and managed insurance company,

National Negro Business League

1900

National Negro Business League founded by Booker T. Washington, one of the nation's most visible, influential and controversial black leaders from the 1890s until his death in 1915.

Madam C.J. Walker

1907

Madam C.J. Walker, America's first black female millionaire, revolutionized the black hair-care business and started traveling throughout the United States selling her new line of hair-care products.

Negro Factories Corporation

1919

Marcus Garvey started the Negro Factories Corporation, a series of companies that manufactured marketable commodities in every big industrial center in the Western hemisphere and Africa. He also established the Black Star Steamship Line Corporation.

Black Swan Phonograph Corporation

1921

Harry Pace formed Black Swan Phonograph Corporation, the first African American-owned record company in Harlem

Johnson Publishing Company

1942

John H. Johnson turned $500 he borrowed against his mother's furniture into the seed money that created Johnson Publishing Company, and he was placed on the Forbes 400 list of the nation's wealthiest citizens.

Parks Sausage Co.

1951

Henry G. Parks started the Parks Sausage Company, which grew into a multimillion dollar operation with more than 240 employees and annual sales exceeding $14 million.

Motown Record Co.

1959

Berry Gordy Jr. borrowed $800 from his family's savings to create Motown Record Company, which attracted some of the many rhythm and blues performers emerging in Detroit at that time.

Albert Johnson

1967

Albert William Johnson was the first African American awarded a dealership from a major automaker when he opened an Oldsmobile dealership in a predominately black neighborhood in Chicago.

Black Enterprise Magazine.

1972

Earl G. Graves Sr. was named one of the 10 most outstanding minority businessmen in the country by the president of the U.S. and received the National Award of Excellence for achievements in minority business enterprise. Two years earlier, he launched Black Enterprise magazine.

Black Entertainment Television

1979

Robert Johnson, a trailblazer for minority entrepreneurs, founded cable's Black Entertainment Television.

World Wide Technology

1980

David L. Steward founded World Wide Technology, Inc.; a provider of technology products, services and supply chain solutions to public, private and nonprofit customers.

Def Jam Recordings

1984

Russell Simmons began his entrepreneurial ventures when he launched Def Jam Recordings, the label that spawned the careers of notable artists such as Run-DMC.

TLC Beatrice Foods

1987

Reginald F. Lewis purchased the international division of Beatrice Foods and rebranded the corporation as TLC Beatrice International, which became the first black-owned company to have revenues of more than $1 billion, at $1.8 billion.

Gardner Rich LLC

1987

Christopher Gardner founded the brokerage firm Gardner Rich in Chicago from his home with just $10,000, which he evolved into Gardner Rich LLC, a FINRA-registered broker-dealer with offices in New York, Chicago and San Francisco.

Baldwin Richardson Foods Co.

1997

Founded after a merger, Baldwin Richardson Foods Co. is one of America's largest black-owned food companies in the U.S.

Fidelis Design & Construction.

2009

2009- Richard Bennett, ex-marine, built the $8 million construction company Fidelis Design and Construction, which handles all aspects of construction management, consulting and building.

Oprah Winfrey

2011

Publisher, producer, television host, philanthropist and billionaire multimedia entrepreneur Oprah Winfrey launched the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) with partner Discovery Communications on January 1.