Connect with us

Black History

The Untold Stories of Blacks in Business

THE WESTSIDE GAZETTE — While most Black businesses showed surprising growth and diversity leading up to the Civil War, what enabled their success was the Black participation in the banking system. Leading into the early twentieth century, Black-owned insurance companies, caterers, funeral homes and burial services were among the emerging industries for Black entrepreneurs.

Published

on

By Carma Henry

Business is much on our minds at The HistoryMakers. Not only are we in the midst of assembling the nation’s largest repository of video oral history on the subject of Blacks in business, but PBS recently aired An Evening with Ken Chenault, which is airing again this week along with our premiere of BOSS, the two-hour long feature of the Black experience in business. BOSS has received rave reviews including one from Mary Wilson of The Supremes who noted, “It was riveting I could not take my eyes off it.” While BOSS represents an important start, it is by no means comprehensive. There are many, many stories within The HistoryMakers archive and still more that have not been documented. Consider the following:

While most Black businesses showed surprising growth and diversity leading up to the Civil War, what enabled their success was the Black participation in the banking system. Leading into the early twentieth century, Black-owned insurance companies, caterers, funeral homes and burial services were among the emerging industries for Black entrepreneurs including John Merrick who founded North Carolina Mutual Life in 1899 to become the nation’s largest Black insurance company, and Alonzo Franklin Herndon, who was born a slave and made his fortune as a barber and then as a real estate investor. He ultimately purchased a failing mutual aid society and turned it into the Atlanta Life Insurance Company. The late former CEO of Atlanta Life Financial Group, Ronald Brown recalled, “Alonzo Franklin Herndon, who was a former slave, had what was then referred to as the finest barbershop in the Southeast, and all of his customers were white. And they did not even know that Mr. Herndon owned the barbershop. They thought he worked there. And to make them feel comfortable, he actually would enter through the back door of his own establishment.”

Coupled with white resistance and the global economic collapse during the Great Depression, Black businesses were hit particularly hard. What followed were some of the greatest Black entrepreneurs like A.G. Gaston, who owned a number of businesses and played a significant role in the struggle to integrate Birmingham in 1963. Real estate entrepreneur and civil rights activist Joe Dickson remembered how Gaston gave him $200 a week so he could study and pass the bar exam. Entrepreneur Comer Joseph Cottrell recalled his father’s advice to Gaston to start an insurance company, “He met A.G. Gaston, who had a funeral home, and he befriended A.G. and told him about the insurance business and told him that since he had a funeral home, that in the State of Alabama at the time, you weren’t required to have a certain capitalization to start a burial insurance company. All you had to have is a funeral home with the ability to bury the people. So, my dad talked him into setting up a burial insurance company and that was Booker T. Washington Insurance.”

There is also, of course, the histories of individuals like S.B. Fuller, featured in the BOSS film, who built an empire of personal care products with Fuller Products and became the largest Black-owned business from the 1940s to the early 1960s. Fuller also served as a role model for George Johnson who founded Johnson Products. Johnson reflected on how Fuller got his start, “He started with twenty-five dollars, which was a refund from insurance on his car. He took that twenty-five dollars, and he bought soap, and he hand-made labels, put them on the soap, and started selling soap with the money that he got from that. From that he turned it into soap, and he turned the soap into money, just turning that over. And eventually he added other things, and that was the start of Fuller Products in 1936.” Johnson Products would go on to be the first African American company listed on the American Stock Exchange. That legacy of entrepreneurship was not lost on Johnson’s son Eric Johnson who later bought Baldwin Ice Cream Company, which he merged with Richardson Foods to become Baldwin Richardson Foods and has grown it into a $300 million company.

Soft Sheen hair care company founders Edward and Bettiann Gardner launched their hair care empire from their basement, Bettiann Gardner recalled how her husband would experiment with new products to sell. After several rejections and modifications, her husband noted, “I went back in the basement and started putting my pot back on again and started taking some wax out and doing a lot of things to it.” When he found something that worked, his wife said, “I’m gonna go down there in the basement with you with my pad and pencil and I’m gonna write down everything you put in and the quantity. So that it will become a formula and you’ll be able to duplicate it every time the same way.”

While BOSS features John H. Johnson, founder of Johnson Publishing Company and Earl Graves, founder of Black Enterprise magazine it does not touch upon Edward Lewis, Clarence O. Smith, Cecil Hollingsworth and Jonathan Blount, founders of Essence magazine or Bob Johnson the founder of BET or Oprah Winfrey, all media moguls in their own right. And then there is Reverend Jesse Jackson and his role in the financial industry with the Wall Street Project. This is the just the tip of the iceberg, and it is our goal to bring more stories to light.

This article originally appeared in The Westside Gazette.

Bay Area

New Assemblymember Mia Bonta to Caucus With 3 Legislative Groups

The 18th Assembly District includes a large portion of the city of Oakland and the cities of Alameda and San Leandro. Bonta was elected in a special election on August 31, defeating fellow Democrat Janani Ramachandra.

Published

on

Assemblymember Mia Bonta, (third from left), with (left to right) Senator Steve Bradford, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurman, U.S. Congresswoman Barbara Lee, assemblymembers Isaac Bryan Reggie Jones-Sawyer, and Kevin McCarty.

Soon after Assemblymember Mia Bonta (D-Oakland) was sworn in last week to represent California’s 18th Assembly District — which covers parts of East Bay — she signed on as a member of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus (CLWC), the California Latino Legislative Caucus (CLLC), and the California Black Legislative Caucus (CLBC).

Bonta is the 11th member of the Black Caucus and the only lawmaker representing a district in the Bay Area. In the Latino Caucus, she is the 30th member, and out of 120 lawmakers in both houses of the state Legislature, she is the 39th woman.

“Special congratulations to our newest member @MiaBonta, who was sworn into the Assembly this morning! #AD18 has chosen a fantastically fearless representative, and I look forward to working with you Assemblymember Bonta! #CALeg,” wrote Assemblymember Akilah Weber (D- San Diego).

Mialisa “Mia” Tania Bonta, who is Puerto Rican of African descent, earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Yale University in 1993 and a Master of Education (Ed.M.) from the Harvard Graduate School of Education in 1996. Bonta also received a J.D. from Yale University Law School in 1999.

Her work experience includes over 20 years working with nonprofits, including serving as CEO of Oakland Promise, a college and career prep program for Alameda County high school students.  She was also president of the Alameda Unified School District Board from 2018 to 2021.

“Congratulations to @MiaBonta on her election to the Assembly, which not only made her the first Afro Latina in the Legislature, but also raised the number of women in the Legislature to an all-time high,” California Lt. Gov., Eleni Kounalakis stated on Twitter.

The 18th Assembly District includes a large portion of the city of Oakland and the cities of Alameda and San Leandro. Bonta was elected in a special election on August 31, defeating fellow Democrat Janani Ramachandra.

“I am deeply honored to represent the 18th Assembly District. Our district has a long history of bold, progressive, leadership and I plan to continue this work in our diverse district,” Bonta tweeted September 7. “I’m ready to fight for bold solutions to issues like homelessness, housing affordability, climate change, and criminal justice reform for AD-18 and all Californians. I am ready to get to work.”

Bonta steps in to replace her husband, Rob Bonta, who vacated the AD 18th seat in April after Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed him California Attorney General, replacing Xavier Becerra, who is now United States Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Continue Reading

Black History

BlackHistoryEveryday.com

Springfield Race Riot of 1908, Sixteen people died. $150,000 in property damage. The riot was a catalyst of the formation of the NAACP. The population of Springfield, Illinois was 45,000 at that time.

Published

on

By

9/15/2021: Black Theatre United “. . . stand[s] together to help protect Black people, Black talent and Black lives of all shapes and orientations in theatre and communities across the country.”

9/08/2021: Alliance for Digital Equality (Julius Hollis founder) was a “non-profit consumer advocacy organization that serves to facilitate and ensure equal access to technology in underserved communities.”

8/25/2021: Eugene Williams first victim at age 17, by being stoned and drowned on July 27, 1919, during “Red Summer” of 1919 race riot in Chicago.

8/18/2021: Springfield Race Riot of 1908, Sixteen people died. $150,000 in property damage. The riot was a catalyst of the formation of the NAACP. The population of Springfield, Illinois was 45,000 at that time.

8/11/2021: Enslaved Africans politically correct term coined for slaves who landed on the now U.S. shores in 1619.

8/4/2021: Trini Ross nominated to lead the U.S. attorney’s office for the Western District of New York based in Buffalo, if confirmed she will be the first Black woman to head that office.

7/28/2021: Kimberly Drew born 1990 art curator and writer. Former Metropolitan Museum social media manager.

7/21/2021: Ketanji Brown Jackson born 1970, in 2021 elevated by Biden to U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C. and is a contender to be the first Black woman on the U.S. Supreme Court.

7/14/2021: Mary Ellen Pleasant 1814 – 1904 “The Mother of Civil (or Human) Rights in California.” Also a chef.

7/7/2021:  Florence Price 1887-1953 first Black woman to be recognized as a symphonic composer, and the first to have a composition played by a major orchestra.

6/30/2021: Skylar Heath, 20, Black transgender woman shot and killed in Miami, FL in November 20, 2020.

6/23/2021: Dior H Ova (aka Tiffany Harris), 32,  Black transgender woman, killed July 26, 2020 in Bronx, NY.

6/16/2021: Danika “Danny” Henson, 31, Black transgender woman shot and killed May 4. 2021 in Baltimore, Maryland.

6/9/2021: Alexus Braxton, 45, Black transgender woman aka Kimmy Icon Braxton, killed on 2/4/2021 in Miami, Florida.

6/2/2021: Serenity Hollis, 24, Black transgender woman shot and killed May 8, 2021 in Albany, Georgia.

5/26/2021: Cassie Ventura born in 1986 is a Black and Filipino singer, songwriter, actor, and dancer.

5/19/2021: Naomi Campbell born 1970. British actress, business woman and model of Afro-Jamaican and Chinese-Jamaican descent.

5/12/2021: George Maxwell Richards 1931-2018, first president of Trinidad and Tobago to be of Amerindian (and Chinese) descent.

5/5/2021: Marabou is Haitian and means mixed-race including European, African, Taíno and South Asian.

4/28/2021:  Thelma Harper 1940 – 2021.  First Black woman elected to the Tennessee legislature in 1989.

4/21/2021:  Baby Esther born Esther Lee Jones 1918 – 1921, date of death unknown.  Singer and child entertainer in the 1920s.

4/14/2021: Tishaura O. Jones born March 10. 1972, first Black woman mayor of St. Louis, MO in April 2021.

4/7/2021: Something Good—Negro Kiss 1898 first recorded kiss between Black folks on film.

3/31/2021:  Jayla Roxx first transgender woman of color to launch a beauty brand, “BatMe! Cosmetics” in the United States.

3/24/2021:  Nnenna Stella founded The Wrap Life out of her exploration of her individuality and the wraps are for everyone.

3/17/2021:  Maia Chaka first Black woman to officiate in the NFL.

3/10/2021:  Sheila Edwonna Branford 1/27/1960 – 1/29/2021  created Scottsboro Boys Museum and Cultural Center.

3/3/2021:  Katrina Adams born 8/5/1968. First Black president of the United States Tennis Association (USTA).

1/27/2021: Calendly is a Black owned scheduling app.

 

more facts log onto BlackHistoryEveryday.com

Continue Reading

Art

David Drake: A Potter Who Inscribed His Work With Poetry

It was August 16, 1857. David Drake (c. 1800– c. 1870s), an enslaved African American, had just completed a 19-inch greenware pot. On it he inscribed: “I wonder where is all my relations / Friendship to all and every nation.”

Published

on

A pot created by David Drake. Wikipedia photo.

It was August 16, 1857. David Drake (c. 1800– c. 1870s), an enslaved African American, had just completed a 19-inch greenware pot. On it he inscribed: “I wonder where is all my relations / Friendship to all and every nation.”
According to some collectors and scholars, this message demonstrates “Drake questioning his heritage and personal history … signifies [his] positivity despite facing the many brutalities of slavery, including the loss of personal identity.” Further, by etching what is clearly a personal expression, Drake defied a South Carolina law forbidding Blacks to read and write.
South Carolina’s Negro Act of 1740, prohibited educating enslaved Africans, punishable by a fine of 100 pounds and six months in prison. Most Southern states in the early 1800s restricted Black literacy.
Drake’s date of birth is unclear. It is said that it was during the first half of 1800. The first legal record of him (June 13, 1818) describes “a boy about 17 years old country born … mortgaged to Eldrid Simkins by Harvey Drake.”
The (Harvey) Drake family owned a plantation in Edgefield, S.C. The term “country born” refers to enslaved Blacks born in the United States rather than Africa. David Drake lived and worked in Edgefield’s pottery factories for almost all his life.
David Drake was first enslaved by Harvey Drake, who alongside Abner Landrum, owned a large pottery business. Known to be a religious man, Landrum was the publisher of a local newspaper, The Edgefield Hive. Scholars speculate that he taught Drake to read the Bible, even if doing so was a punishable offense.
After Harvey Drake’s death, David Drake was enslaved by Landrum. In 1846, Landrum passed away. Drake was then purchased and enslaved by Landrum’s son Franklin, who was abusive. While owned by Franklin, Drake never inscribed his works. But Drake’s life, his works, blossomed in 1849, when he was sold to Lewis Miles.
Miles owned the pottery factory, Stony Bluff. There Drake created his best works once again inscribed with poetry. The number of pieces produced increased from one every few years to seven in 1859. Having produced alkaline-glazed stoneware jugs between the 1820s and the 1870s, Drake is recognized as the first enslaved potter to inscribe his work. He became a free man when the Civil War closed (1865).
According to Drake scholar Jill Beute Koverman, Drake created “more than 40,000 pieces over his lifetime.”
When Drake was alive, his pots sold for around 50 cents. Today they fetch as much as $50,000 and have auctioned for as much as $369,000. A butter churn with the inscription “This is a noble churn / fill it up it will never turn,” sold for $130,000.
Various collections including his work can be viewed at museums including the Smithsonian collection of the National Museum of American History in Wash., D.C.
It is thought that Drake died in the 1870s because according to scholars, “he is not found in the 1880 census.”

Continue Reading

CHECK OUT THE LATEST ISSUE OF THE OAKLAND POST

ADVERTISEMENT

WORK FROM HOME

Home-based business with potential monthly income of $10K+ per month. A proven training system and website provided to maximize business effectiveness. Perfect job to earn side and primary income. Contact Lynne for more details: Lynne4npusa@gmail.com 800-334-0540

Facebook

Trending