Learn about the untold story of African American entrepreneurship, where skill, industriousness, ingenuity and sheer courage in the face of overwhelming odds provide the backbone of this nation’s economic and social growth.
Transcript from The Full Documentary
-♪ One, two, get down [ James Brown’s ‘The Boss’ plays ] ♪ Paid the cost to be the boss ♪ ♪♪ ♪ Paid the cost to be the boss ♪ ♪♪ ♪ Look at me -African-American business is an essential part of this ideal of black liberation.
-Resilience, practicality, strategic thinking — these are the qualities that business leaders have, but sometimes only emerge under the most stressful and sometimes unfair circumstances.
-In the tradition of making a way out of no way, black entrepreneurs were forced to sell to their own community, but those businesses allowed them to become economically independent.
-♪ Havin’ fun, got money to burn ♪ -Wherever we are, we didn’t get there by ourselves, and because we did not get there by ourselves, we have an obligation to help those who need us.
We have an obligation to give back.
-♪ Paid the cost to be the boss ♪ ♪ Told you so -If you look at African-American business-community traditions, there’s always a sense that you do good by doing well, and you do well by doing good.
-Today’s subject is the Negro in business and industry.
-♪ Paid the cost to be the boss ♪ ♪♪ -When I was growing up, business was totally nontransparent to me.
We were really, really poor.
Mother was a daycare worker, and she always, always, always struggled with money.
I remember always scrambling for food, always scrambling for safety, always scrambling for peace of mind, and we got it a lot as children, but she didn’t.
She never did.
♪♪ This idea of self-determination was her mantra.
She would say to me all the time, ‘Be more than the circumstances would’ve dictated that we would naturally be.’
Being a teacher was a realistic thing, being a nurse was a realistic thing, but this whole idea that you go work for a company was not something that was really visible or understandable to me until I got to college.
♪♪ I came into Xerox as a summer intern, as a student.
I decided at that point that I would probably, if I could, stay at Xerox and work after college.
-Our new Xerox 4000, the copier that can do things other copiers just can’t.
Now Eileen can turn out 45 copies… -In just about every visible way, I was a minority.
In Xerox, there were very few women engineers, very few black engineers, and no black women engineers.
Corporate America is built for white men.
It’s an inherent feeling that excellence looks like this, it acts like this, it came from this place.
It is a huge amount of pressure for people of color in a structured organization like a business where literally you are so different, you’re so unique, you’re so unlike everyone else that you have to always be a little bit on guard.
I had to work with manufacturing people, with a whole bunch of union guys.
I mean, literally people would refer to me as ‘that colored girl.’
♪♪ But one day the CEO asked me to be his assistant.
I had access to the company, like the CEO saw it, and I traveled with him during some of the most difficult times of the company, and I realized at one point, ‘Yeah, I could actually run this place.
-We’re gonna turn to history being made in corporate America.
For the first time, an African-American woman is going to head a Fortune 500 company.
Ursula Burns, who once worked at Xerox as the executive assistant to the company’s CEO will now the CEO.
♪♪ -Ursula Burns is a role model, and we’re going to get black female CEOs because Ursula Burns paved the way.
-It was amazing.
It took a lot for me to kind of get used to, because it was a huge deal.
I wasn’t anointed.
I didn’t have a light shined on me.
I didn’t go to Harvard.
I just literally started and worked and worked and worked and worked and worked.
[ Camera shutter clicking ] But I had it a lot easier than the early pioneers.
They were not only dealing with starting businesses.
They were dealing with saving their lives.
♪♪ -During slavery, black people understood very well that money can buy freedom.
And how do you get money?
People who got money were those involved in some independent economic business enterprise.
♪♪ -There’s always been blacks who have been engaged in business, so even within the plantation economy, there was some, you know, trade or selling of handicrafts.
♪♪ -Usually, the money generated by this trade went to the slave owner, but sometimes it went to the enslaved worker.
-With some of the profits that they were able to keep with the magnanimity of their owners, they were able to buy their freedom and the freedom of others.
So, literally, black entrepreneurship has meant freedom for black people.
-When hundreds of years of enslavement came to an end, it seemed that African- Americans’ dreams of freedom, equality, and independence were becoming a reality.
♪♪ -After the Civil War, they knew that they were and had been essential to the growth of the nation and the South.
♪♪ But in freedom, it was an opportunity for them to actually enjoy the fruits of their own labor.
♪♪ -It really was this moment of hope.
We have the passage of major civil-rights legislation like the 14th Amendment, which gives African-Americans citizenship.
We also have the passage in 1870 of the 15th Amendment, which gave African-American men the right to vote.
And so, there’s a moment when African-Americans are really trying to seize the day.
♪♪ -‘Must we sit and pray and hope for better times when the white man will see our need and give us better wages?
Let us put our shoulders to the wheel, establish and carry on every specie of industrial enterprise for ourselves, employing and paying fair wages to our people.’
-So, you had openings here for African-American entrepreneurs, and we often don’t realize that some of the first African-American entrepreneurs and businesspeople were farmers.
-♪ Harvest time’s comin’ and will catch me unprepared ♪ ♪♪ ♪ Harvest time’s comin’ and will catch me unprepared ♪ -In that agrarian economy, you’re just labor.
Land is capital.
And so, to gain money and wealth and to have freedom, you have to have land.
-♪ Haven’t made a dollar, bad luck is all I’ve had ♪ -At the end of the war, President Abraham Lincoln had promised the freedmen 40 acres of land per family… ♪♪ …but those promises died with Lincoln’s assassination.
♪♪ -Instead of 40 acres and a mule, they got the Freedman’s Bank.
So, instead of land they were given a bank.
♪♪ -Union soldiers were getting bonuses.
So, the idea was to create a way to encourage the men to save the money so they wouldn’t go squander it or be defrauded out of the money.
-It was sold to the freedmen as, ‘Better than giving you the land, you will earn the money through wages and you will save it and you’ll buy your own land, and you’ll feel better about that.’
Never mind that hundreds of years of working the land didn’t count for earning the land.
-The Freedman’s Bank was privately held, owned, and managed by wealthy white men, but the bank’s aggressive marketing conveyed a different impression to its black depositors.
-The passbooks, the notes all featured, you know, the heroes.
It was Abraham Lincoln.
It was General Grant, Howard.
It was very targeted.
So, people were saying, ‘These are the men who freed us, and they’re saying come to this bank.’
♪♪ -In freedom, some skilled African-Americans saved their hard-earned capital at the Freedman’s Bank and went into business for themselves.
-♪ I’m on my way -♪ I’m on my way -♪ To freedom land -♪ To freedom land -♪ I’m on my way -♪ I’m on my way -♪ To freedom land -♪ To freedom land -♪ I’m on my way -♪ I’m on my way -♪ To freedom land -♪ To freedom land -♪ I’m on my way ♪ Great God, I’m on my way -♪ I’m on my way -♪ I’m on my way -♪ To freedom land -♪ To freedom land -♪ I’m on my way -Of course, you had African-Americans who dominated, actually, in certain industries such as tailoring, dressmaking, barbering.
-Scholar W.E.B. Du Bois would later describe the roots of this early generation of black entrepreneurs.
-‘It is easy to see how the barber, the caterer, and the restaurant keeper were the direct economic progeny of the house servant just as the market gardener, the sawmill proprietor, and the florist were descendant from the field hand.’
♪♪ -For some black businesspeople, personal services were the clearest path to success, and sometimes wealth.
-They recognized that their ability to have a particular kind of skill set, which was something that the white population needed, allowed them a certain kind of mobility and freedom.
-Many of them were able to cash in on expectations that they were replicating their servant roles where whites were in power and African-Americans were serving them.
For example, a number of black barbers continued to keep their exclusively white clientele after the war.
♪♪ -It took very small capital to open up a barbershop.
You have maybe one-, two-, three-chair shop, and then you have your tools, and let’s go.
But many of the more successful, ‘first-class’ barbershops often had several shops in the same city.
-If you were to walk in a first-class barbershop, you would’ve walked into something pretty grand — tall ceilings, there’d be chandeliers, very tall mirrors.
You would be met by differential apprentices dressed in white jackets, who would offer to take your hat and remove your coat and polish your shoes while you waited for your favorite barber to attend to you.
If you looked behind the barber’s stand, what you could see was your monogrammed shaving mug.
♪♪ -All these barbers spent that time in the barbershop, nurturing these relationships with white men, and used that money from the barbershop to help fund and to help fuel a black economic movement within their own communities.
♪♪ -John Merrick, a barber who had been enslaved as a child, convinced white investors to back his expanding business empire in Durham, North Carolina.
-Ultimately, Merrick owns eight different barbershops, four of which served whites, and, significantly, four of which served African-Americans in the new black neighborhood of Hayti, which was emerging in Durham.
♪♪ -From barbershops to grocery stores, black businesses relied on the Freedman’s Bank.
But a decade after it was founded, Bank President Henry Cooke was running the Freedman’s Bank into the ground.
♪♪ -Here was Cooke saying, ‘Look at all this money.
They’re putting their money in my bank, and whenever I need it, I’m gonna reach in and get it.’
-Henry Cooke starts looting the bank.
He just starts taking this money and lending it or giving it to some friends and acquaintances, just putting the capital into railroad bonds, which was the subprime market of the day.
♪♪ -With the Freedman’s Bank on the verge of collapse, the federal government turned to the best-known African-American leader in the country to salvage it.
-Congress brought in Frederick Douglass to serve as the new president of the Freedman’s Bank.
Initially he invested $10,000 of his own money as a way to shore up the bank, as well as to encourage other African-Americans to continue to deposit their money into the bank.
But the bank was beyond saving, so Douglas had to go to Congress and say that the bank was bankrupt, and it needed to close.
-‘The fact is I was married to a corpse.
I found that I had been placed there with the hope that by some drugs, or some mighty magic, I would bring it back.
But the life, which was the money, was gone.’
♪♪ ♪♪ -The hard-earned savings of the freedmen were lost just in the market, just poof.
And nobody gets prosecuted.
♪♪ This was white-collar crime, actual just crime, it was theft, and nobody goes to prison for it.
♪♪ -‘Not even 10 additional years of slavery could’ve done so much to throttle the thrift of the freedmen as the mismanagement and bankruptcy of the series of savings banks chartered by the nation for their special aid.’
-From 1865 to 1874, about 70,000 people deposited the equivalent of $1.3 billion in modern-day numbers, so African-Americans enthusiastically embraced the Freedman’s Bank.
It was a deep loss for African-Americans and a loss of a vast amount of black wealth.
♪♪ -Soon after the collapse of the bank, the federal government withdrew from the South — returning control of the region to former slave owners.
♪♪ The dream of full citizenship for African-Americans came to a screeching halt.
♪♪ -We see the end of efforts to educate formerly enslaved people.
We see the end of the protection of the right to vote, and what is allowed to happen is a series of legislative and extralegal attempts to suppress African-American freedom.
♪♪ ♪♪ -Any land that was able to be secured is also violently retaken.
And so, what you see is a reassertion of that racial hierarchy in the South that had the white landowners at the top and black labor at the bottom.
♪♪ -After reconstruction, discrimination against African-Americans would be enshrined in state law for decades, enforced with violence by white terror groups.
Leaders like W.E.B. Du Bois argued that black-owned businesses could play a key role in progress.
Du Bois advocated the formation of a business league.
Booker T. Washington, the founder of Tuskegee Institute and the most prominent African-American in the country, agreed.
-Booker T. Washington thinks it’s a wonderful idea, and it also complements his own thinking about trying to organize African-Americans for economic opportunity and promotion of business.
-Booker T. Washington starts the National Negro Business League, which becomes this incredible network of entrepreneurs across the country who meet for conventions, support one another, and show each other that they can make it in this capitalist society.
♪♪ -By 1900, there were about 20,000 black-owned businesses in the United States.
They were anchors of black communities in the North and the South, including Memphis, Tennessee.
-Blacks were truly on their way to becoming first-class citizens and living a good life in Memphis.
Thomas Moss is emblematic of that.
He owned a store called the People’s Grocery.
It was a co-op, co-owned by at least 10 African-American citizens in Memphis, and this was part of the entrepreneurial spirit that was going on in the city.
-The People’s Grocery was considered a threat to the white community because there was already a grocery store in the area that was owned by a white person.
-That owner was William Barrett.
In March of 1892, having grown fearful and jealous of the People’s Grocery’s success, Barrett instigated a mob attack on his competition.
♪♪ -Men came in the middle of the night.
There was gunfire.
And as a result, there’s lots of arrests, including men at the People’s Grocery.
-Tommy Moss was dragged out of the jail and taken about a mile north.
He was tortured and shot.
♪♪ -The killers’ true motivation was exposed in a stinging column by local journalist and publisher Ida B. Wells, who was a close friend of Thomas Moss.
♪♪ -‘This is what opened my eyes to what lynching really was, an excuse to get rid of Negroes who were acquiring wealth and property, and thus keep the race terrorized.’
♪♪ -A rash of lynchings was sweeping the country — 161 in 1892 alone.
♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ After the murder of Thomas Moss, Ida B. Wells dedicated herself to exposing the truth.
-The rationale that was always written up in the press, in the white press was that blacks were now suddenly and out of seemingly nowhere beginning to rape white women, because this was the only rationale that people could accept.
-Wells launched a national investigation, and found that lynching was typically motivated by white resentment of black economic competition.
When she published her findings, Wells’ life came under threat.
♪♪ -A mob comes and destroys her newspaper office entirely.
People are waiting for her to come back to lynch her and so she decides not to come back to Memphis — in fact, won’t be back for decades.
♪♪ -In 1893, a year after she fled Memphis, Ida B. Wells delivered a blistering speech at the Chicago World’s Fair.
Before a packed house, she condemned racism in the mainstream press.
♪♪ -‘The men who encourage or lead the mobs which do the lynchings belong to the race which own the telegraph wires, newspapers, and all other communication with the outside world.
They write the reports which justify lynching, and those reports are accepted by the world without question or investigation.’
♪♪ -Listening in the audience was aspiring publisher Robert Abbott.
In a few short years, Abbott would become one of the most powerful African-Americans in the United States.
♪♪ -Robert Abbott started in 1905, supposedly with a capital of 25 cents and supposedly on his landlady’s dining-room table.
He has a vision to build this newspaper into a powerful and successful local and national business.
♪♪ would soon become the nation’s most influential black newspaper, with 2/3 of its readership outside Chicago.
♪♪ And Robert Abbott would turn his attention to influencing the actions of his readers.
-By 1917, he was very actively encouraging African-Americans to move to Chicago and even set a date in May of 1917 for what he was calling the Great Northern Drive.
♪♪ You get a sense from that living in Chicago was exciting, and when you’re sitting there in a small town in Mississippi or in Alabama, there’s something attractive about that.
-Critical to the Great Migration and the decision-making process for African-Americans in the North were black newspapers like that was asking a question — ‘How free can you imagine your life?’
♪♪ -The black migration was happening.
Robert Abbott didn’t start it, but helped to support it and to foster it, to give people material information about how to leave and where to go and what would be available in Chicago if they came to Chicago, but also to say, ‘Look, other folks are doing it.
You can do it, too.
If you’ve been contemplating leaving, maybe now is the time to leave.’
He saw black people leaving the South en masse as not only a social and personal act, but it’s an economic act.
♪♪ ♪♪ -To Southern migrants, the Chicago they read about in was a place where their hard work would be rewarded, and their dreams of economic independence just might come true.
-He didn’t paint an overly romantic notion of life in the North, but it was a pretty stark contrast, particularly around economic opportunity for black families that are sharecropping or that are struggling to sustain businesses in the South.
♪♪ -By the winter of 1916, estimated more than 250,000 black people had left the South, destined for new lives and opportunities in Northern cities.
[ Horn honks ] [ Siren wailing ] ♪♪ -More than 100 years later, black-owned media companies are building on the legacy of early black newspapers.
Dominique Da Diva here.
-Black radio is nothing but an extension of the black print press, the Ida B. Wells, those who felt they had to give voice to their community.
They didn’t go into business to make money, but guess what — She had to have some money to rebuild twice, okay?
There’s an African proverb that I love to quote, which is, ‘Until the lion learns to read and write, the story of the hunt will always be from the hunters’ perspective, and the lion will always lose.’
Well, I like to consider my company the lion who learned how to read and write.
♪♪ 85% of all black America is touched by our company in one form or fashion.
They either listen to us on radio, watch us on TV, or they interact with us on the Internet.
-Yeah, she’s a sweetie.
-Was it because of wanting to be a mother that you started to address health issues facing women?
-No, we have been the spokesperson for how we can all live healthier lives in our city.
-Information is power.
When an African-American community receives the information that they need and want, they’ll come to the right conclusion.
They will, in fact, be able to elevate the lifestyle and living standards of the entire community.
♪♪ Since I was 8 years old, I knew that I wanted to be on the radio.
I knew I wanted to use my voice to make a difference.
-Hughes got her chance in 1980, when a radio station in Washington, D.C., went on the market.
She had always had the will.
Now all she needed was a loan.
-I had to have $2 million.
I went to all the banks. All of them said no.
32 times I heard ‘no.’
-Finally, she got a ‘yes,’ and Cathy Hughes bought her first station, WOL-AM.
But her troubles were far from over.
-My lowest point was after I got the loans and went into business because the economy tanked in America.
I lost my home.
So, I ended up in a sleeping bag on the floor of my radio station.
In hindsight, it was the best thing that ever could have happened because radio is 24/7, and I was there 24/7 with my company.
Never once did I feel put out or put upon because I was in a sleeping bag on the floor of the conference room.
I thought I was camping out.
I thought I was protecting my company.
You do not have to lose who you are to be successful.
You don’t have to lose your integrity, your goodness, your compassion, your caring and sharing of other individuals to make a dollar.
It is critical.
It is essential for you to do good and do well at the same time and you must first do good before you worry about doing well.
-This lesson was drilled into Hughes by her parents and grandparents, who’d been part of the Great Migration — not to the North, but to the West.
♪♪ -We often think of pioneers as white people with cowboy hats, women with Mother Hubbard bonnets, with a Conestoga wagon going across the plains, but the reality is that in Oklahoma, at least 1/10 or so of the pioneers were African-American.
-There are these entrepreneurs that set sail, and they go in the dead of night.
They have to escape the South.
-These are people who risk it all to get there and they had great big dreams.
I’m gonna create a town.
I’m going to run for sheriff.
I’m going to be on the city council.
We’re gonna have paved streets and our own homes and our own buildings, and these are people who had been denied much access to the American economic system, but now they’re starting to take part in it.
[ Singing spirituals ] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ -Between the 1870s and the beginning of World War I, black pioneers settled more than 100 all black towns in the west, each with the goal of economic independence.
♪♪ Among the most well-known was a black district in Tulsa, Oklahoma, known by its residents as Greenwood.
-If we were to go back in time to 1920 and walk up and down Greenwood Avenue, one thing that would probably strike us is the absolute variety of businesses.
The numbers are astonishing — 30 restaurants.
45 groceries and meat markets.
There were dry-good stores, milliners, a photography studio, dental offices.
Greenwood is no longer called Greenwood.
It’s now known as Black Wall Street.
-This whole idea of self-containment really existed there.
The dollar would stay in that community sometimes over three, five years before it ever went outside of the community.
[ Horns honk ] -In 1919, black soldiers returned from World War I with high expectations for racial progress at home.
♪♪ But in one city after another, white mobs erupted in violence, targeting black veterans, citizens, and businesses.
On Tulsa’s Black Wall Street, African-Americans, including armed veterans, watched nervously and prepared for what might come.
-Countering this white militancy is very much an African-American spirit of, ‘We’re gonna defend ourselves.
If the mob comes, we’re not gonna run, we’ve got our guns, and we’re going to protect ourselves,’ and that was especially important and valuable and potent in Greenwood.
-On May 30th, 1921, the mob came to Greenwood.
-This white woman is in an elevator, and this black teenager allegedly whistles at her or talks to her.
He is taken to jail.
A mob gathers of whites and blacks, and blacks in Tulsa are armed.
They take their Second Amendment rights seriously and they come with guns, and this is a threat.
Someone fires into the crowd, and the riot is born.
[ Indistinct shouting ] -Shortly before dawn, there are preparations for an invasion of Greenwood.
♪♪ The police start handing out rifles and shotguns to members of the mob who they then deputize as special deputies.
♪♪ ♪♪ -This was not about the whistling boy in the elevator.
This was about blacks becoming too economically powerful and showing that wealth in a way that anyone would by creating buildings and constructing churches and having property.
♪♪ -There was a whistle that blew and then the mass invasion and the destruction of Greenwood began.
It goes block by block.
Any African-American men who resist are shot.
Others who are still there are all rounded up by mob members, by police officers, by these special deputies.
Whites will then break into businesses, loot what they can, and then set them on fire.
And by that afternoon on June 1st, more than 1,000 homes and businesses belonging to African-Americans had been looted and burned to the ground.
Greenwood is no more.
-When the smoke cleared in the early morning of June 1st, 1921, Black Wall Street lay in ruins.
♪♪ -This is by far the largest single incident of racial violence in all of American history.
♪♪ What can’t be denied was the loss and the loss that these business owners suffered.
This was capital that they would never, ever get back, nor would their descendants, as well.
♪♪ -Among those who lost everything was J.B. Stradford, one of the most successful black businesspeople in Tulsa.
After he was wrongfully accused of inciting the riot, Stradford fled to Chicago.
-J.B. Stradford was my great-grandfather.
His hotel was burned to the ground during the famous Tulsa race riots.
My mom used to always talk about what a great entrepreneur he had been, and all of us in our family feel very, very strongly that our wealth was taken away during those Tulsa race riots.
-J.B. Stradford’s family never returned to Oklahoma.
In Chicago, his children and grandchildren would grow up with a strong spirit of economic independence.
♪♪ -My father felt it was really, really important for his son to have financial security, and so he had certain guidelines that he had set up.
I was gonna have a checking account, I was gonna have a savings account at a very early age, and he made sure that I went to an African-American Bank and African-American savings and loan.
[ Phone rings ] -John Rogers would go on to build Ariel Investments, headquartered in Chicago.
-The other thing is we want — Whatever we do, we want to be a model so that other financial-services companies get similar ideas to partner with urban public schools in a similar fashion.
So, if we get some visibility around our 25th anniversary, maybe it’ll inspire others to try to replicate what we’ve been able to do.
-I sort of put this idea together that if we were gonna be prudent investors, we’d also be patient investors.
There’s that old Aesop’s fable where the tortoise beats the hare, and at the end they always say — the tag line was, ‘Slow and steady wins the race.’
And it’s like, ‘Gosh,’ I thought, ‘This is kind of exactly what we’re all about.’
As I got going in my career, I kept finding that major corporations and also major nonprofits, they say they believe in diversity, they say they’re committed to it, and what I found was that a lot of it was sort of empty rhetoric, and that really troubled me.
So, I found that I thought that was really important for me to, you know, challenge these institutions that say they care about diversity but they’re not really living those values day to day.
♪♪ The Ariel Community Academy was started over 20 years ago.
We built an extraordinary school.
After we’d been in business for a couple years, I sort of borrowed the idea from my father and I thought for the kids to learn about investing, they needed to be investing real dollars.
So, that’s the heart of the program is to give the kids real money that they can invest in real stocks and when they graduate, see the benefit of their own decision-making and be able to take some of that cash home with them and help get them ready for college.
We’re really excited that we’ve had a number of a former Ariel Community Academy graduates work here as summer interns, and now we have two full-time graduates who work here at the firm.
Thank you. -No problem.
-John Rogers is the founder and owner of the largest black-owned asset-management company in the country — and by the way, one of the best-performing of any race.
-And I do think we had a really good speaker this year.
I think if we got started earlier, we could get someone with a little more name recognition.
-So, that gives him leverage as an influencer of major corporations and the decision-making they’re making, even though he’s not an executive of a major corporation.
He’s exercising a level of influence that — it almost can’t be measured.
-Maybe we would do something very innovative.
-I was so fortunate here in Chicago to have great business success stories that I could try to follow in their footsteps.
♪♪ -Black-business success stories grew with the creation of a new urban culture.
In the early 20th century, one of those stories was about black hair-care products.
-Women themselves wanted to transform.
They wanted to take on the ways of the cities.
-It really was about more than just looking good.
As women are leaving the rural South and moving into urban areas, they’re trying to adopt a more modern identity, a more professional identity, and for them, part of that had to do with learning new ways of grooming their hair.
-Annie Malone, a self-taught chemist, formulated a product that would help black women straighten their hair without damaging it.
After creating her Wonderful Hair Grower, Annie Malone took it to her market.
♪♪ -And so, she begins to develop this company.
She begins commissioning sales agents to sell a hair preparation that she created.
And so, it was a way for her not just to make money and to build what becomes the Poro company.
She would develop a system of Poro beauty colleges where women could come and train and then eventually open up avenues for women to become entrepreneurs by owning their own businesses.
She’s employing black women, trying to get them on her sales force, and one of the women who does join her sales force is none other than Madam C.J. Walker.
-Born to sharecroppers, the woman who would become known as Madam Walker had an even bigger vision for the black-hair-care industry.
With $2 and a tireless work ethic, she struck out on her own.
-Walker begins to believe that she doesn’t have to have a boss, and so she begins to make her own products.
She needs to be where there are a lot of black people, where there are a lot of heads for her to use her products, and so she’s now on the road selling her products.
And she would demonstrate on someone in the town, she would train the women, she would find the woman who had the most spark, and make that woman her agent, and then she would travel to the next town and she would repeat that.
-Madam C.J. Walker would build a business empire and become the first self-made woman millionaire in the world.
-What she’s able to build is far greater than a product line.
She’s giving African-American women the opportunity to have independence in the kind of work that they do.
They’re protected in many ways from the indignities of domestic work.
It allows African-American women to set their own schedules, work on their own time, and serve within their own communities.
-There was a testimonial letter from a woman who said, ‘You have made it possible for a colored woman to make more money in a day selling your hair products than she could in a month working in somebody’s kitchen.’
-Walker and Malone’s success in the hair care and beauty industry inspired legions of black women across the country to try their hands in business.
-Madam C.J. Walker, in my opinion, by any measure, is one of the greatest entrepreneurs to ever walk the face of this planet, period.
-In 2016, after decades of being dormant, the Madam C.J. Walker line was relaunched by businessman Richelieu Dennis.
-It wasn’t just about resurrecting a brand.
It was about making sure that her legacy is showcased in the light that it deserves to be showcased, that her brand deserves to live on well into the future.
-Rich Dennis’ company, Sundial, is a family of hair and beauty brands principally serving the African Diaspora.
-We are SheaMoisture, and now, we can be found in the beauty aisle where we belong.
-Under Sundial, we have Nubian Heritage, we have SheaMoisture, we have a Nyakio, which is a skin-care brand founded by a female entrepreneur of Kenyan descent.
-These are — so many people over nearly five decades, you know, have been a part of this journey.
-That’s cool. That’s really cool.
I was born and raised in Liberia, on the west coast of Africa at a time where there was significant civil unrest in and strife.
I came here to go to college, and by the time I graduated in 1991, we had a full-blown civil war in Liberia and in Sierra Leone.
In that fighting, our home was destroyed, and my family lost everything.
My mother had come to my college graduation on the last flight that left Monrovia.
So, for us, it was a matter of survival.
♪♪ And so we set up a table on 125th and 5th Avenue up in Harlem and started selling soap and — and selling oils and incense and — and shea butter.
♪♪ Buying our ingredients from women like my grandmother became important to us.
Far too often you see companies build off of our culture, exploit from our culture, but never invest back in the very people that give them the creative ideas.
We felt that we could build a business that would change that.
How are you doing? -Great.
-This is amazing. -Yeah.
So, we’ve come from selling soap on a sidewalk on a table in Harlem to now being sold globally.
The — -And the best is to come.
-See, I like that. I like that.
We’re just getting it started. We’re just getting it started.
-Rich Dennis is young.
He took a small black company that sold primarily to black people — and SheaMoisture started on the streets — built it up into a real company, sold it to a white company, but turned around and used that wealth to acquire ♪♪ ♪♪ -The decision around was one that was very, very easy and very clear.
If we don’t control our narrative, and if we don’t own our culture, then others will own it.
♪♪ If you sort of follow what we’ve been doing over the past 27 years, it’s always been about investing back in black women.
They’re the ones who built our brands, they’re the ones who drive our market, and our vision was quite simply to serve women, black women, in ways that other brands weren’t.
♪♪ -For over 100 years, black-hair-care entrepreneurs have served consumers that other companies ignored.
-♪ Paid the cost to be the boss ♪ -But hair care is not the only industry where black businesses recognized a market that was overlooked and underserved.
Another case in point — insurance.
-Black insurance companies take off in the late 19th century because white insurance companies began to refuse to cover African-Americans.
-Black consumers could be denied coverage for some very strange reasons.
-Frederick L. Hoffman, who worked for Prudential, had done some previous studies related to African-Americans, and in 1896, he published a study called ‘Race Traits of the American Negro.’
-Hoffman’s research led him to predict that the black race would eventually become extinct.
♪♪ -He purports that these studies are completely scientific, that they are objective, but they are racist in their assumptions about the fitness of African-Americans.
-After this book came out, Prudential ceased insuring black people altogether, and some other white companies ceased to insure African-Americans.
-This is a big opening for black insurance companies to say, ‘Okay, well we’ll do it.’
-Black-owned insurance companies anchored thriving business districts in black communities nationwide.
One of the biggest was in Durham, North Carolina.
-Durham is this paragon of black-business success.
You’ve got people saying, ‘Come to Durham.
If you want to know what black business success looks like, don’t go to Europe, don’t go to Wall Street, come to Durham.’
-You had a thriving business community, and the tallest building in the black neighborhood was the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company.
-North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company was at the center of black Durham.
Its founder was none other than John Merrick, the man who had built a barbershop empire.
North Carolina Mutual’s founding credo was, ‘To relieve the distress of the Negro.’
-John Merrick said that when you bought a policy from North Carolina Mutual, you were not only buying insurance to take care of your family in a time of calamity but also providing white-collar jobs for black men and women.
-The North Carolina Mutual Insurance Building is the biggest black business worldwide at the time, and they make this purposeful decision to not be the tallest building in town, to be humble about their success as a business and not instigating that resentment that happened in other places.
-Alongside insurance companies, another finance industry sprung up to serve the growing needs of black consumers and businesses — black banks.
-♪ Money, money, money, money ♪ Money ♪ Money, money, money, money ♪ Money ♪ Money, money, money, money -Between 1890 and 1920, there were about 150, 200 black banks across the country, so in the South, in the segregated North in Chicago, Detroit, Baltimore, there’s a burgeoning industry.
-Black businesses need access to capital and credit, which is in some instances impossible for them to get from white banks.
These banks are the most visible sign of African-Americans’ engagement with finance and capital, which is the business of America, and banks are really the symbol of that.
♪♪ -In the Jackson Ward neighborhood of Richmond, Virginia, one formidable businesswoman had a clear vision of what a black bank could do.
-‘Let us put our monies together.’
♪♪ ‘Let us use our monies and reap the benefit ourselves.’
♪♪ ‘Let us have a bank that will take the nickels and turn them into dollars.’
♪♪ -Maggie Lena Walker is an exceptional woman.
In 1903, Maggie Lena Walker becomes the first woman of any race to organize and lead a bank.
♪♪ -It was not a profit-oriented business.
She’s very public-serving, and that’s how she sees her bank as, ‘This is a way I’m going to help the people.’
♪♪ -The bulk of the investors in the Saint Luke Bank were working women… ♪♪ …and they pooled together their money and bought shares to create the bank.
♪♪ The Saint Luke Bank, as well as other African-American banks, promoted this idea that African-Americans were good credit risks, and so they extended them money.
It became the largest employer of women in the business field.
-When the Great Depression began, Maggie Walker steered the Saint Luke bank through a merger, and the bank managed to survive, but most others were not so lucky.
Many black businesses that were vibrant during the 1920s, in fact, did not survive.
We saw many black banks across the country that were casualties of the Great Depression.
♪♪ ♪♪ -No group escaped the Depression unscathed, but few were hit harder than African-Americans.
By 1932, nearly half of black workers were unemployed, and in some cities, there were calls to throw blacks out of jobs if any whites were out of work.
♪♪ Consumers that had been the lifeblood of black businesses, including banks, were left with little — or nothing — to spend.
♪♪ -Between 1888 and 1930, 134 banks are created and controlled by African-Americans.
By 1930, there are only 12 left standing, and so that 12 cannot really respond to the intense economic needs of not only black individuals, but also black businesses.
-When banks were reorganized in 1933, we saw the mainstream banking industry recover relatively quickly.
It really wasn’t until the 1950s and ’60s that we saw black banks recover.
♪♪ -As the economy began to rebound after the Great Depression, some black entrepreneurs were positioned for growth.
-♪ Paid the cost to be the boss ♪ ♪♪ -S.B. Fuller had survived the Depression by selling soap door-to-door on Chicago’s South Side.
Soon, he had a growing team of agents selling a range of personal-care products.
-When I was a kid, I remember all the Fuller people.
I remember the Saturdays, and you hear them shouting.
They would have — They would get together, and it’s like a football coach.
You know, in every city, you had these people meeting every Saturday and go out and selling these Fuller products.
-Starting with just a sixth-grade education and $25, Fuller built a conglomerate, including a department store, a theater, a string of black newspapers, and a factory.
But in 1947, Fuller made a move that would make him one of the richest black men in the country.
He purchased a cosmetics company called Boyer International from a white man.
-The person who sold it to him did not say, ‘I sold my company to a black man.’
He bought it in secret.
And then S.B. Fuller started producing products that white people were buying.
And he hired white salesmen.
-By the mid 1960s, Fuller was a multimillionaire, employing more than 5,000 people, both black and white, across 85 offices in 35 states.
Then white Southerners got wind of who was the boss.
-The South had long accepted African-Americans selling goods and services to other African-Americans, but for an African-American to sell to white consumers, especially in the South, that was considered to be an absolute no-no.
-He decided that he would have a company convention whereby he would let his employees know that he was proud of them.
And here this black man walks out.
♪♪ -When it was publicized that a black man owned certain business entities, that created a firestorm.
-The white response was immediate.
They boycotted the product.
That was like a turning point in his business activities.
-And it was sort of a tragic story as time went along because, after that episode, he declared bankruptcy.
-In the 1960s, many whites simply could not accept black leadership of a mainstream consumer business.
Yet one black entrepreneur did cross over by getting Americans to dance across the color line.
♪♪ Until then, the business of music had been strictly segregated.
-As the music business began in the early 20th century, we were in the middle of the Jim Crow era.
And as a result, the music industry is born in Jim Crow.
It retains the contours of Jim Crow.
-It’s bound up with incredibly racist white-supremacist ideas that were degrading to African-Americans.
And this racist ideology moved right into the time of recorded sound.
When you first have record labels like Victor Records coming into prominence, you don’t see African-Americans having any ability to break into that business.
-The irony of the American music business is that black Americans have provided the content for this business, the culture for this business, but have not had equity and have not had control of the access to it.
-The only place African-Americans had a foothold in the business was on stage and behind the mic.
-Anybody with two good ears and two good eyes could see that for most of the 20th century, the music of white Americans had been black music, whether it be Louis Armstrong in the 1920s, 1930s, whether it be Ray Charles, Little Richard, Chuck Berry in the 1950s.
What Motown did was find a way to get that equity from that cultural transaction.
That’s what Berry Gordy did.
-Starting out, Gordy found inspiration in an unlikely place.
-He takes the job in the Ford factory.
So, he’s at the Lincoln-Mercury assembly line.
He’s listening to all the machines rattle away day after day and he thinks, ‘I’m gonna start making music,’ listening to the beat of these machines.
He starts composing some of his first songs on the assembly line.
-In 1959, with an $800 loan from his family, Berry Gordy went from assembling some of the country’s most popular cars to making the country’s most popular music as the founder of Motown Records.
♪♪ With Motown, Berry Gordy put black people in charge of the business of music for the first time.
♪♪ It’s something that you feel from within, and you do it spontaneously, and it is not something that you learned.
You have to have a natural feeling for it.
-♪ My world is empty without you, babe ♪ -♪ Without you, babe With the Temptations, the Four Tops, Martha and the Vandellas and Motown’s crown jewel, the Supremes, Gordy brought that natural feeling to young people everywhere.
-Whether you personally dig the Detroit sound or not, there’s no question it’s being dug by a lot of youngsters to the happy tune here of an estimated $15-million gross a year.
-In its first 10 years, Motown placed an unparalleled 79 records on the Billboard 100 charts, thanks to Berry Gordy’s ear for music and mind for business.
-What he understood was the power of music.
How do you create poppy two-and-a-half-minute songs that white kids will want to listen to on their car radios?
-♪ Well, I guess you’d say ♪ What can make me feel this way? ♪ ♪ My girl -♪ My girl -♪ My girl -♪ Talkin’ ’bout my girl -♪ My girl -♪ Ooh-hoo -Gordy really created a company that was capable of creating a product from womb to tomb, shall we say.
He had songwriters on staff, producers on staff, musicians that worked in the studio day and night called the Funk Brothers.
He had a management company that took care of business affairs.
He had a booking company.
-It’s not a one-man organization or two-man organization, but it is an organization of teamwork, and I could go on and name them all down the line who are the unseen heroes.
♪♪ -Gordy deliberately neutralized the discomfort of whites who might pose an obstacle to his progress.
-He decides to hire white executives to go into these radio stations and pitch his product, and he gets people like Barney Ales to go in there and make these connections for him.
♪♪ -Gordy also had a shrewd understanding of how to package his product to appeal to a mainstream audience.
-♪ So, won’t you hurry ♪ Come on, boy, see about me -♪ Come see about me -The Supremes became the centerpiece of Berry Gordy’s crossover vision because they were able to embody everything that he thought white Americans wanted to see from an African-American group… -♪ Come see about me Glamor that was both dazzling and innocent.
The dresses they wore weren’t suggestive.
The choreography that they did was very fun to watch, but it wasn’t in any way sexualized.
-Berry Gordy built the Motown brand through the ’60s and ’70s, and by 1983, the company had annual sales of over $100 million.
Motown was the most successful black-owned business in America, and the first whose product successfully crossed over to white consumers.
♪♪ ♪♪ But corporate America was already getting acquainted with black consumers, thanks to another entrepreneur who had his finger on the pulse.
♪♪ -John Johnson was part of this tradition of black journalists, and his mission in terms of was to have a positive focus on the experiences of people of African descent.
-I think Johnson Publications represent pride in black heritage.
We want to build wholesome images of black people.
Before we came into being, there were no publications building the black image.
-My father looked at magazines like magazine at the time and magazine at the time and saw that they were big and glossy and had great photos and great writing.
He made the assumption that, if this works in this market, why can’t this work and why can’t this be good enough for the African-American market?
-Johnson is taking advantage of the fact that there is a growing black middle class.
And there really isn’t much in the black press that addresses black Americans’ interest and need for access to consumerism and also that talks about the experiences of the black elite.
-To cultivate white advertisers, Johnson decided to use a language they would understand.
He made a movie.
-Yes this is the market we’re talking about, the new Negro family.
All over the country families such as this are enjoying new prosperity.
There are a lot of confused notions about the Negro customer.
Negros own homes, They meet their payments faithfully.
They buy good brands of merchandise.
So, why let a lot of old-fashioned ideas hurt profits?
-‘The Secret of Selling the Negro Market’ was a film done in the 1950s, and it sort of encapsulated what the Ebony consumer looked like.
Professional, a little more well-to-do.
I think what my father was trying to do with that film was to show the power of the African-American consumer, to say, ‘You know what?
We buy products just like you do.’
-We know that Negro customers are turning more and more to the publications that are tailored specifically to their needs, that give them the news and the information that they want to read about.
-Sounds like pretty good sales advice.
That’s the secret of selling the Negro.
-I recall when we could not even convince advertisers that a black market existed.
And I think we were able to do it by pointing out that they could increase the return on the dollar if they cultivated the black market the same as they cultivated the other markets.
♪♪ -Johnson’s plan worked, and Johnson Publishing became one of the largest black-owned businesses in America, generating tens of millions of dollars in sales around the world.
Yet when he decided to purchase property in downtown Chicago to serve as his headquarters, John Johnson hid his identity.
-In order for him to buy that building, he had to pose as the janitor, and he put on overalls to walk through the building with a white person who was the purported buyer when the buyer actually was my father.
This is what he had to do.
That was humiliating for him, but he overcame that humiliation because he looked farther down the road and said, ‘Look, if I have to humble myself to do this, this is what I’m going to do because I see a bigger picture down the road.’
But yes, as a black man, it didn’t matter what station you were.
He did whatever it took to get what he needed to sort of have this building be part of the message of what and were.
-In 1955, John Johnson was faced with one of the most important decisions of his career when Emmett Till, a 14-year-old Chicago boy, was brutally murdered in Mississippi.
♪♪ -My father got a call from Emmett Till’s mother, Mamie Till.
She wanted the world to see what had been done to her son.
And we sent, you know, photographers and writers to the funeral, which was an open casket, and we took the photos.
And I remember my father years ago saying to me, ‘You know what, Linda?
I was afraid to publish those at first, but I knew we had to do that.
We had to make a statement here.’
He ended up publishing the photos, and the world got to see our world, and the white world got to see the horrific, horrific result of beating this young boy at age 14.
♪♪ So, it was a very defining moment.
It was a defining moment for my father, it was a defining moment for civil rights, it was a defining moment for Jet, for the writers, for the photographers, But it had to be told.
♪♪ -It sickened your stomach.
What, 50 years later?
I still have that image.
-Johnson’s publication of the Till photos in 1955 would help ignite the mass civil rights movement.
Over the next decade, other business leaders would step up to play critical roles in the movement — in front of and behind the scenes.
♪♪ -♪ I wish I knew how it would feel to be free ♪ ♪♪ -One of the most important contributions of businesses to the civil rights movement was one of space.
-You needed space to talk, you needed space to think, to organize, to resist.
And black-owned institutions were critical spaces for them to do all of that work.
-A.G. Gaston was the largest employer of blacks in Birmingham, Alabama.
He employed hundreds, if not thousands.
In building his businesses, one of the things that he insisted on was that there be a place for black people to gather.
-He opened the doors of his motel to allow the more radical leaders of the town, like Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth, to meet in his buildings and plan their strategies for their protests.
And he allowed Martin Luther King Jr.
to come in during the Birmingham campaign and stay in his motel.
He was able to provide the bail money that Martin Luther King JR. needed to get out of jail.
-Martin Luther King was not a rich man, by far.
He would not have been able to do what he had to do if he was not backed by a black millionaire like A.G. Gaston.
-There was a real cost for him in this.
He paid a price.
His Gaston motel was bombed during the Birmingham campaign.
And before the 16th Street Church bombing in September of 1963, his own house was bombed.
♪♪ -Despite the threats to his life, A.G. Gaston would remain in Birmingham and continue to support the movement.
♪♪ ♪♪ -During the period of my upbringing, the civil rights movement was on the front pages of the newspaper every day.
♪♪ And so people commonly think about the marches that Dr. King led… but I was aware that a very small band of lawyers brought cases in the American South to ensure that this country lived up to the ideals that it claimed to about equal justice under law, and I decided I wanted to be a lawyer.
The reason I chose the particular law firm I went to is it had a reputation for doing public interest work.
So, I do think I took a very unusual or unorthodox approach to becoming the CEO of Merck.
♪♪ For me, a lot of what Merck is doing is about another form of justice.
It’s a higher form of ensuring that every life is treated as though it’s worthy of dignity, respect, and high worth.
♪♪ We exist to save and improve human lives, to reduce human suffering, to reduce disease, and we do that through scientific innovation, through breakthrough research.
What motivates you is this concept that people deserve justice, and it’s unjust that certain people would have to become sick and die just because of who they are or where they live.
♪♪ I’m very fortunate that I was able to go from the inner city to where I am today, but there were a lot of important steps along that journey.
♪♪ I feel extremely fortunate to have been mentored by people all along the lines, and my success is really the result of the fact that people took a keen interest in me.
♪♪ I’m excited by where the company’s going, and I’m pleased to have the opportunity to work for the company.
I think we’re heading in the right direction.
-When President Trump was first elected, he invited me to join the business council, and, you know, I had mixed feelings, to be honest, because, it was a very difficult, divisive election campaign.
But, ultimately, I put aside my own personal feelings about the politics, the campaign.
I thought it was my institutional responsibility as the CEO of this company to be in the room.
I was just totally focused on making sure that whatever healthcare policies emanated from this administration were in the best interest of patients so they get meaningful and timely access to medicine.
-Virginia’s governor declared a state of emergency in Charlottesville today as white nationalists clashed.
The violence included an attack on a crowd of peaceful protesters.
At least one person was killed.
-It happened two hours after a planned protest billed as Unite the Right was shut down by police.
-Moments ago at Trump Tower, the President of the United States painted white nationalists and members of the alt-right as victims in Charlottesville. When members of the KKK… -After the incident occurred in Charlottesville where the young woman was killed and I heard the President’s comments, I felt very strongly that to not take any action at that point would be to sort of tacitly acknowledge and support the words that I heard and I felt very strongly as a matter of conscience that that wasn’t the right thing for me to do.
-Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier is resigning from the President’s American Manufacturing Council.
Let me read you the… -It was pretty immediate decision for me that withdrawing from that business council would be the right thing to do.
Thanks a lot.
-The fact that he did it publicly sent a strong message that you could be a high-level corporate executive, you can be a CEO, but he was saying you can still be a person of integrity.
-Hi. Nice to see you.
-So good to see you. -How’s it going?
-So, I think it sent a strong message throughout corporate America, and specifically to black corporate executives, about what leadership really is.
[ Indistinct shouting ] ♪♪ -By the mid 1960s, significant legal gains had been won by the civil rights movement.
But legal advances were not enough.
Beginning in 1965, frustration with poor housing, unemployment, and police brutality boiled over in one city after another.
[ Siren wails ] -♪ Segregation, determination, demonstration, integration ♪ ♪ Aggravation, humiliation, obligation to our nation ♪ ♪♪ ♪ Oh, yeah ♪ Ball Of Confusion -After the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, people were left with this sense that if economic inequality persists, what does it mean for the future of business, and what does it mean for the future of communities?
So, people became keenly aware that the Civil Rights Act meant nothing if we fail to have the economic power to actually improve the quality of black life.
-This executive order creates a government-wide, nationwide program of minority business enterprise.
-By the early 1970s, the government had responded to the demands of the movement as well as the urban unrest by establishing programs to set aside federal contracts exclusively for minority-owned businesses.
-The biggest customer in America, maybe the biggest — one of the biggest customers in the world is the federal government.
It allowed black businesses to bid on major large-sized contracts that they had traditionally been excluded from, and overnight created some of the largest black-owned businesses as a result.
-This project, it being constructed by a black company, and I would just like this to be a focal point and to really show America what we can do.
-This program created more black millionaires, multimillionaires in the late ’70s or early ’80s than probably any other single piece of federal efforts to grow and develop black-owned businesses.
-Never shall I let you down.
[ Cheers and applause ] -♪ Brother’s gonna work it out ♪ Brother’s gonna work it all out ♪ ♪♪ ♪ Now, don’t give him no peace… ♪ -Beginning in the 1970s and into the 1980s, a wave of African-Americans were elected across the country.
They took the reins of cities where black businesses had been shut out.
-When I became Mayor Zero, .5% of the all the contracts in the city of Atlanta went to Afro-Americans in a city which at that time was 50/50.
-So help me God. -So help me God.
-Black mayors began to use their political clout to see that black-owned businesses finally got a share of municipal contracts.
-When black mayors like Maynard Jackson, followed by Harold Washington, Tom Bradley, when they came into office, one of the things that they did was they had an economic agenda for the black community which was not being given the opportunity to get any contracts.
-Maynard Jackson is basically saying, ‘If everybody doesn’t get to do business, nobody gets to do business.
The airport’s not gonna be built.
No business is gonna get done until black people get a certain percentage of every contract.’
-The Atlanta Airports Project has realized its goal of between 20% and 25% of the construction being awarded to minority firms.
This project is serving to prove that minority participation goals can be reached in a businesslike manner.
-Black mayors also sent a strong message to majority-white corporations about their hiring practices.
-They said, ‘Listen, don’t come here with a team comprised of entirely white men.
We want to see some black people on that team.’
-And a lot of people were asking the question, ‘How many black partners do you have?’
-So, one day they looked around. They didn’t have any.
So they went to a headhunter, and they recruited me.
So, there was a whole wave of blacks during this time period who became partners in the biggest firms.
If it had been different times, I might not have been hired by McKinsey.
♪♪ ♪♪ -By the 1980s, black professionals were seizing new opportunities to excel in corporate America.
-♪ Ain’t no stoppin’ us now ♪ We’re on the move ♪♪ ♪ Ain’t no stoppin’ us now ♪ We’ve got the groove -It was exciting to be there, but it was also hard, because, at times, I would be going to McKinsey in my three-piece suit, you know, with my, you know, socks had to be over my calf, had to wear a hat, because that was the thing you had to do.
I didn’t wear hats and, you know, they would say, ‘Why aren’t you wearing a hat?’
And so for people like me going in that first wave, it was — it was a challenge.
-You have to deal with it, and that requires courage, it requires not being afraid to speak up, to stand up, to straighten people out, to advocate, and, in many ways, it’s a lonely journey.
♪♪ When I was growing up, my introduction to business was that my mother had a catering business.
She did cocktail parties.
She did weddings for the high society of white Atlanta.
♪♪ Her constituency was not the black community.
♪♪ I knew that I was there to fan the flies and then to be the bartender and pass the hors d’oeuvres or pass the plates.
♪♪ But that was the extent to which I knew anything about corporate America.
♪♪ My concept of black businesses beyond my mother’s business was that black businesses served us.
Drug stores were black.
The dry cleaners were black.
The traditional business, the undertaker, that was black.
♪♪ -Vernon Jordan would spend a decade on the front lines of the civil rights movement… ♪♪ …and would then lead the way through the doors he helped to open.
♪♪ -I was first elected to three corporate boards in 1972 and I was the first black director in each of those situations.
♪♪ It was clear I was sitting there where black people were not sitting before.
♪♪ ♪♪ And because I was there, I thought I had an obligation to make it even better.
And I had to make clear that this tokenism was not enough.
If you talk to blacks all over, they can tell you that they are where they are because they were instructed and inspired and pushed and encouraged by older black people.
Ursula knew in her heart of hearts that she had the right stuff to become CEO.
-Vernon Jordan took me under his wing.
He was a reaffirming voice, somebody that I could talk to from a completely different point of view.
I mean, this is a black man who speaks like a black man, who walks like a black man, who treats me like a black woman, who I literally had a reasonable, normal relationship with.
We could just say black things to each other.
[ Applause ] -It’s reciprocity in this process and sharing the frustrations and the loneliness of corporate America when you’re the only black woman or the only black man, and people feel like you are where you shouldn’t be.
♪♪ -We were not going to fail, we just knew there was too much pressure on us to succeed, and then we said we are going to bring in more.
So, I went, and I recruited 19 other people.
Once you get in, you just don’t look out for yourself.
You look out for the people who were gonna come behind you.
-It was true for all of us who were the first.
That is the price of leadership.
That is the price of… …wanting to make a difference.
-As the first generation of black executives started climbing the corporate ladder, a magazine was founded to document their every step.
-The 1970s is when we see the emergence of Black Enterprise magazine, where Earl Graves is touting this growing black corporate base, but also this growing black business community that is trying to find a way to survive, trying to find a way to seize the benefits of capitalism.
♪♪ ♪♪ -Hello?
My father started Black Enterprise in 1970.
People had not heard of top executives working in corporate America or top entrepreneurs that exist.
But in full disclosure, this wasn’t like he had a grand plan.
At the time he was working for Robert Kennedy, and he was an advance person for Robert Kennedy.
Clearly, Robert Kennedy being assassinated was a tragedy for this country.
Sometimes at a tragedy, triumph comes through.
The Kennedy family was very, very generous and wanted to take care of the staff, but he didn’t want to go back into working for someone else.
My father said, ‘I had three hungry young boys and I had to find a way to put food on the table.’
Someone had suggested to him that through his relationships that he should perhaps start a newsletter.
Then another person told us, ‘Well, if you’re gonna start a newsletter, you might as well start a magazine,’ and ignorance is bliss.
He didn’t even know the first thing about publishing a magazine, but he knew he was a salesperson, and he was determined to be successful.
-Not only was Black Enterprise a statement, it was a source of information.
Earl Graves did us a great service.
He informed us about what was available, but Black Enterprise also informed corporate America about opportunities that it had in the black community.
-In 2006, founder Earl Graves passed the baton to his son.
-Our long term goal is to continue the work that was started back in 1970.
We’re best known for being Black Enterprise the magazine, but today as a multimedia company that includes publishing, which is what the magazine does, professional development events, and digital and social media.
-‘Our World with Black Enterprise.’
-I want people to see the best of who we are, and I want our audience to see it, I want African-Americans to see the best of who we are.
-In 1987, Black Enterprise got an exclusive interview with a businessman who’d made a deal that would’ve been unimaginable only a few years before.
His name was Reginald Lewis.
-Before Reginald F Lewis, John Johnson was the ideal role model for what a black entrepreneur was supposed to be.
It was, come up with a great idea and really define it and defend it and build it year over year over year, maintaining 100% ownership all the way, but it took decades to do it.
-Reginald Lewis decided, ‘I want to be an entrepreneur, but I’m not gonna start anything up, but I’m gonna acquire a company.
-I’ve always been motivated by strong, keen desire for independence, true independence and a sense of achievement, and I think I owe that to my family.
-Reginald F. Lewis, seemingly overnight, acquired TLC Beatrice International, and in one fell swoop became the first billion-dollar black-owned business.
-Years before Oprah Winfrey and Robert Johnson did their own billion-dollar deals, Reginald Lewis did it first, acquiring a collection of 64 businesses in 31 countries.
-A supermarket chain in Alsace Lorraine.
A Barcelona ice-cream factory.
A retail food chain in Paris.
These are some of the elements in Beatrice International, one of the world’s largest food companies.
-The acquisition made Lewis the most influential black business person in the country and a major player on Wall Street.
-Beatrice becomes the biggest black-owned business in America.
Number two is the Johnson Publishing Company, which puts out and -If given a chance, they can do it. We can do it.
Like, you know, so I think it’s fantastic.
In fact, I’m gonna go look into it.
I may want to get a job.
-With the purchase of Beatrice, blacks enter mainstream corporate America.
-In 1993, at the height of his success, Lewis died of brain cancer at age 50.
But his singular accomplishment would inspire many of those who came after.
-That was a game changer for a whole generation of African-Americans.
They looked at the Reggie Lewis acquisition and leveraged buyouts and said, ‘Wait.
I can get into the capital markets in Wall Street and I can make big money and I can really, you know, swing a big bat in terms of business and how business is done.
-Reginald Lewis’ success in the 1980s was evidence of progress.
But as the walls of segregation began to erode, the traditional black economy began to falter.
-As black people are moving more into this sort of desegregated world, one of the consequences is that many of the black-owned businesses that they supported and that supported them during the era of segregation begin to fall apart.
-African-Americans had begun to see more access to white businesses, to white-owned hotels, to white grocery stores and department stores.
Smaller mom-and-pop black stores, the barbershops, the beauty shops that might have two or three employees is not quite enough to fuel a business district.
-The kind of vibrant business district that you saw there as late as the early 1950s, by the 1980s is a shell of its former self.
♪♪ ♪ Broken glass everywhere ♪ People…on the stairs ♪ You know they just don’t care ♪ ♪ I can’t take the smell, can’t take the noise ♪ ♪ Got no money to move out, I guess I got no choice ♪ ♪ Rats in the front room, roaches in the back ♪ ♪ Junkies in the alley with a baseball bat ♪ ♪ I tried to get away, but I couldn’t get far ♪ -Many major cities that had prospered under the Great Migration, by the 1980s had fallen victim to some of the worst economic and social policies of the era.
-New York City.
This is a city that’s on the brink of default.
The President of United States says to New York to drop dead, essentially, without giving it federal support.
-This mass abandonment wasn’t just a loss of people.
It was also a loss of capital, social, economic, and investment.
And so in the 1980s, the artistic movements that come out that will later become hip-hop is a critique, a response, and a result of people being left behind.
♪♪ -What’s important about hip-hop’s emergence is that it was always do it yourself, It was always a DIY culture.
They always talked about folks being on their hustle, being on their grind.
-♪ My Adidas walk through concert doors ♪ ♪ And roam all over coliseum floors ♪ ♪ I stepped on stage -A rap ode to a sneaker signaled the arrival of a hip-hop business that would become bigger than music.
-♪ A sucker tried to steal ’em ♪ ♪ so caught ’em and I thwart ’em ♪ -It’s very difficult for Run-DMC in the 1980s after recording a song called ‘My Adidas’ to even get Adidas to pay attention.
♪♪ Whenever hip-hop wants to broach some sort of new territory, the folks who control that territory in the mainstream say, ‘Mm, you know, we don’t really think it’s marketable.
We don’t really think it’s mainstream,’ and it forces the folks in hip-hop to found their own businesses.
♪♪ -Hip-hop artists created a multimillion-dollar hip-hop apparel industry.
Like black entrepreneurs before them, they built something new by recognizing a market that others couldn’t see.
♪♪ -You just come off the elevator and then just to see the whole Rocawear thing.
It took me, seriously, years to get over that.
I used to walk out the elevator and be like, ‘That’s incredible.’
-Rap music isn’t just about the mean streets anymore.
It’s just as much about Wall Street.
-For hip-hop’s millionaire moguls who were once doubted and scorned, there seems to be no end in sight.
-♪ From sunup, sundown ♪ We get money, money, money, money ♪ ♪ You can say what you want everyday ♪ ♪ Money, money, money, money -Where you really see hip-hop grow as a business is in the area of consumer products.
When Jay-Z sold Rocawear, the clothing company, he sold it for $200 million, 50 Cent following suit with his investment in Vitamin Water, Sean Combs following suit with Sean John, Phat Farm, selling for almost $200 million, and then finally what Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine are able to do with Beats selling to Apple.
-Apple has reportedly offered to buy Dre’s ubiquitous headphone company Beats for $3.2 -The journey of hip-hop from that street culture to global culture has everything to do with the entrepreneurial impulse of hip-hop artists.
-The black entrepreneurial impulse is alive and well, not only in hip-hop but in industries across the board.
Yet black start-ups still face an uphill battle for venture capital.
-In Silicon Valley there is as a minuscule percentage of African-Americans and women of color who are getting investors, and it’s not that they don’t have good ideas.
It’s that they don’t look like the guys who are doing the investing.
They don’t look like the guys who are around the table.
-We drive culture.
You know how frustrating it is to go into a venture capitalist’s office and have them blasting Drake or blasting Tupac or quoting them in articles but not writing checks to black people?
It’s frustrating, and we’re trying to bypass all that.
We’re trying to get to the point where we don’t even have to stop at their office anymore.
-Arlan has been called the hottest VC in the game, and she is hot. She’s lit.
-What we do at Backstage and what I set out to do is about equity.
I just don’t think there’s any room for us to be polite to ask nicely.
I think we have to take what’s rightfully ours, and that means equity and that means capital.
-New efforts to invest in black start-ups are on the rise.
One is Backstage Capital, founded by Arlan Hamilton.
-As I was becoming more and more curious about start-ups in general, I started learning about venture capital, the sliver of innovative capital that you can take more risk with because the outcome can be greater.
♪♪ You take your moon-shot chances in venture capital.
So, when I learned about that, I thought, ‘That’s great.
That’s really interesting.
Let me check and see how many people of color they’ve invested in because that’s a moon shot.’
Our team — I can’t do this without our team. I can’t do… But only 0.2% of all venture capital goes to black women, and it was even less 5 years ago.
Fighting to stop all that because that’s — -I’ve been stalking you anyway. -Oh, all right, all right.
♪♪ I didn’t have a traditional path to venture capital.
It definitely wasn’t easy.
-And Arlan Hamilton. -When I was raising the fund, I went through a lot of ups and downs… -Staying true to yourself.
-…but it was the path that I knew I had to go.
So, in 2015 I said, ‘I want to invest in 100 companies by 2020 that are led by underestimated founders,’ and people really thought I was crazy.
And people — some people get a little bit, like — not people in the portfolio but outside people, they’re just like, ‘Oh, you’re trying to get a lot of attention,’ and I’m like, ‘Why not do that?’
-Yeah. -And I said no to so much.
I had people saying that I was crazy to think that I could even find companies that were being started by women or started by black people.
I think, like, in next 10 years, we’re gonna have like half a billion under management.
-Oh, wow. -Yeah, that’s what I think is gonna happen. -That’s amazing.
-Yeah. I didn’t invest in 100 companies by 2020.
I invested in 100 companies by 2018.
♪♪ -Arlan’s investment was the first outside money that came into the door for us.
What she’s done for just raising attention to the fact that such a small percentage of founders of color and women are able to raise venture capital has been huge.
-Do you use our mentor bot? -We do.
-Okay, great. -Yeah, yeah.
-Yeah. -If there were no Arlan, we definitely would still be out here fighting to raise capital, and we would still just be knocking at doors.
-But at the same, we have to evolve and grow.
So, it can’t be always as what it was.
I think that there’s a lot of pressure on me to have that one shot.
If we have that one shot, that one investment, and if we don’t do okay, they told you so.
But I’m going to be steady, I’m going to be patient, I’m going to stay the course, and I’m gonna be in this fund for years and years and years, and this is a decades-long fight.
-The 21st century frontier for African-Americans in business — the tech industry.
In 2014, the proportion of black employees at Google, Yahoo, Facebook and LinkedIn topped out at just 2%. ♪♪ Some blame the problem on a shortage of qualified black talent, but others say the industry has been looking in the wrong place.
-60% identify as white, 23% Asian.
-We know that blacks are graduating from historically black colleges in their engineering departments in record numbers.
And so if you want to only recruit from the Ivy League schools that have 4% black populations, then it is a supply problem.
But if you want to open up the opportunities to blacks regardless of where they matriculate, then it’s no longer a problem.
♪♪ -Anytime there’s an emergence of any new industry, there are scarce opportunities for people who weren’t part of starting that.
Tech is no different.
So, is it a surprise that those who have built these tech businesses have done just like every other past generation — included only those who have been part of it and only those that they know?
No, it’s no surprise.
But technology is very different.
The record is abysmal, but the access to opportunity is very different.
-Robert Smith, founder and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, is a leader in the tech industry.
Smith’s commitment to doing well by doing good started at home.
♪♪ -I’m fourth generation from Colorado.
I grew up in a family that was very deeply connected to the community in which we lived.
♪♪ I remember how engaged they were in the civic dynamic of our community.
I decided to embark upon a career in chemical engineering, and I went to Cornell University, which has a very storied history, not only in chemical engineering but, frankly, in educating African-Americans and decided I needed to go back to business school to get a better understanding of how business works.
It was through that process that I met a number of African-Americans on Wall Street, and that’s why I ended up at Goldman Sachs.
I had the great opportunity advise little companies by name of Apple Computer or eBay or Hewlett Packard and Microsoft, and really started to understand to a great extent how their businesses were transforming every single industry on the planet.
And that is what led me to the conclusion that there is great opportunity in merging the worlds of finance and technology.
-Robert Smith saw value where no few others did, in what’s called enterprise software.
-What enterprise software is, is actually business-to-business software.
It’s the way that you manage, you know, banking transactions, insurance transactions, transactions between, you know, a doctor and a payer, an insurance payer.
In essence, I saw the value of improving the way that enterprise software companies are run.
-He understood the opportunity, but before starting his own business, Robert Smith went to talk to his grandfather.
-So, when my grandfather was like, ‘Why would you ever leave a good job at Goldman Sachs?’
he also understood that it was up to me and people like me to take risk, and as I walked him through it he said, ‘You know, son, you’ve got to go try this.
You’ve got to go see what you can do in that context.’
And so that’s how I started Vista.
You know, the dynamic that we face, of course… -Today, Vista manages $31 billion in private equity capital, and Robert Smith is the richest African-American in the world.
-Technology has made this world small.
My company’s in 175 countries.
I’ve got 220 million users of our software.
I view part of my job is to ensure that I enhance what we do here at Vista but enhance the opportunity for many more in our community so that they can do their work and be their best selves.
♪♪ -For Robert Smith, business success and giving back to the community go hand in hand.
-So, it’s being called a miracle of a museum, right here in the nation’s capital.
-With a gift of $20 million, Smith was a major donor to the new Smithsonian museum dedicated to the African-American experience.
-The Smithsonian announcing a $20-million gift from the founder, chairman, and CEO.
-The National Museum of African-American History and Culture is an important part of the American story.
Our stories need to be understood, they need to be told, and everyone, every American should have an opportunity to contribute to the story that made America.
-In Ancestry, in the Family Search, you can search for individual people.
The first hit we get… -I’m focused on ensuring that the stories, not just of the past, but stories of the present are captured to inspire the young people of the future to continue to drive forward what is what America should be.
That’s why those gifts are important to me.
♪♪ -Smith also supports the next generation of African-American, Latino, and women students who might become the next Robert Smith.
-I can make a difference, a big difference and educate tens and thousands of black and brown children in STEM education or move them into and help them with, you know, internships and jobs in private equity or venture capital or those sort of areas.
Those are the things that most excite me.
It’s the classic ‘doing well by doing good.’
It’s the classic ‘teach someone to fish rather than give them a fish.’
♪♪ I don’t sit here and look at the newspapers about, oh, how much somebody thinks I’m worth.
You know, if you really want to know what you’re worth, you should ask your mom.
How do you deal with racism?
Well, you go do your work.
You go practice your craft.
You become the best at what it is that you do.
We have faced racism for 400-plus years in the country.
And so you fight and you draw from the past and you lead to the future.
-I’m 83 years old, and in every forum, I try to make sure that there are young black people ready, able, prepared.
Because we have been historically excluded from the power places in our country, it is in the country’s interest to have a mixture of people served.
It’s so simple. It’s about equal opportunity.
♪♪ -What Americans want are new ideas, innovativeness, and that is what black people have been doing all along.
So, I think it will be positive for black Americans in a way that it hasn’t been before.
-We have always moved forward because of successful black entrepreneurs.
So, all we need to do to know that we’re gonna be fine is look over our shoulders.
There’s no reason to believe that 10 years from now, 20 years from now, 30 years from now, we won’t have a bigger and better story to tell about black business and black business people than we do now.
♪♪ ♪Ain’t nothin’ to it, boss♪ ♪Ain’t nothin’ to it, real one♪ To order this program on DVD, visit ShopPBS or call 1-800-PLAY-PBS.
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♪I record then I ball♪ ♪I ignored a lot of calls♪ ♪You ain’t talk about nothing I ain’t got no time♪