Business is not just for one color and many black men and women realized this. They managed to pioneer themselves during adversity and racial abuse to rise up to become prominent business owners setting out aspirations for many different generations of people.
To show such resilience against a world where black people were seen as second-class citizens shows an incredible amount of courage and one that many can take an example from. There are entrepreneurs from the slave trade to the gaming world.
Names such as Madam C. J Walker the philanthropist and casino owner Don. H Barden set the next generation off. Without Walker, the beauty industry for black people may never have taken off and without Barden gaming may never have taken the next step by moving online to be able to have gaming online offers.
Across the world, there have been inspirational black businessmen and women who broke the industry-changing it forever. It has ranged from industry to industry proving that it really does not matter the color of your skin.
James Forten was a Philadelphian sailmaker, he invented a sailmaking device that was incredibly desirable. With transport focusing on boats, he struck gold with this invention. By the 1830s he was estimated to be worth $100,000 (or approximately $2.5 million today) and he used that money for good.
Forten invested a lot of money into the abolishment of colonial rule and protecting other African Americans’ civil rights. His social standing was highly important in the African American community.
Ignatius Sancho was actually born on a slave ship heading for what we know today as Colombia. However, he was orphaned to a family in Westminster, London, and used as their slave. Despite a time where black people were not allowed to be educated, Sancho grabbed every book, poem, or play he could and learned to read.
It was this determination that helped him become financially independent when he was freed. He used his passion from childhood and threw himself into the theatre by writing, publishing, and selling songs, dances, and plays. He also opened up a grocery store that became incredibly popular with actors of the day.
He became the first known black person of African descent to vote in parliamentary elections in Britain, in 1774 and 1780. Even his legacy left money for his family as letters he wrote arguing against the slave trade were published and his family received royalties of £500 (approximately £800,000 in today’s money).
Samuel T. Wilcox
Wilcox dominated the wholesale and retail grocery scene in Cincinnati. He was able to offer a higher-end product that was of high quality and people really wanted to buy them. He was the first to offer such high-quality goods during the 1800s.
Products would include the top brands in hams, soaps, dried fruit, and many more superb items. The popularity meant that Wilcox was able to bring in a lot of money and he was able to boast a yearly income of $140,000 (approximately $4.2 million, adjusted for inflation).
In the 1960s in Britain Margaret Busby became the youngest and first female publisher. Born in Ghana, she moved to Britain with her family and she started her own business with a university friend. The publishing company is called Allison and Busby and has produced some amazing books, especially for the black community.
Similar to Sancho, Busby is a writer as well. She uses her words carefully and correctly to promote activism. She was voted one of “100 Great Black Britons” in 2003. Her work and business acumen saw her gain honors from the Queen as she gained OBE status in 2015.
William Alexander Leidesdorff, Jr.
Often described as the earliest mixed race businessman but Leidesdorff was more than just a man of color. Leidesdorff was a prominent figure in the trade industry as he was able to establish his own shipyard, lumber yard, and ship chandlery shop. Leidesdorff was also involved with real estate in San Francisco.
It was here in San Francisco that he managed to build the first hotel in the city. This entrepreneurial spirit is what made him the first millionaire of color. By the mid to late 1800s, Leidesdorff was worth $1.4 million (which would be equivalent to more than $20 million today).
Madam C. J. Walker
Madam C.J Walker, born Sarah Breedlove, was the first of her family to be born free from slavery and she did not look back on that. She was the first self-made female millionaire featuring in the Guinness World Record books. She was a philanthropist, entrepreneur, and social activist during her life helping many people in the black community.
Her main line of business was working with cosmetics for black women. She worked for another amazing businesswoman of color Annie Malone, who was the first female millionaire and would later become the biggest rival to Walker.
Walker designed a tool known as the “Walker system” after suffering from scalp problems herself. The system involved scalp preparation, lotions, and iron combs. She is credited with developing the first straightening tool.
Her business was incredibly successful and she provided jobs for black people. At the height of her success, she had over three thousand employees, largely black people, selling her products. She was estimated to be worth $600,000 (about $8 million in today’s dollars).
Don H. Barden
Barden became the first black owner of a casino in Las Vegas and a proud American. He started off his entrepreneurial journey when he left university and opened a record shop with $500. The record shop took off and many concerts were held at the record store.
This success led him down the road of property and real estate making his real fortune. However, he was not done there and when he saw the profits in cable television he made sure he was in on the deal to help black people. He struck a deal that saw 4% of cable franchises in Lorain were put aside for African Americans.
In 1993, this is when Barden moved into the gaming world as the State of Indiana legalized riverboat casinos. He profited massively and sold off his shares in the TV company of around $300 million to invest in his own casino; he bought the Majestic Star in 1996.
However, he was not done there as he had eyes on the gaming capital Vegas. After three Fitzgerald-owned casinos went bankrupt, Barden took that opportunity and went on to buy forty institutions across 12 cities, one of them being in Vegas.
He saw what Fitzgerald was doing and believed the in-house operations were strong enough to cope as they had done under the previous regime, so he was able to focus business elsewhere to build his empire.
That empire was incredibly popular and for Barden, The Tunica gaming house was the most profitable.
He prospered up until his death but missed out on the boom with gaming in 2011 with the likes of gaming machines in betting shops. However, he was worth over an estimated $300 million when he passed away and left a superb legacy for people of color.