BOSS: The Black Experience in Business


Boss: The Black Experience in Business

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.

AIRED: April 23, 2019 | 1:53:53

-♪ 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 be 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?

Certainly not.

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."

Richmond Virginia Star, 1882.

-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,


-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 Th e Chicago Defender 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.


-The Defender 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 The Defender

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 The Chicago Defender

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 The Defender

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, Th e Defender 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.

-93.9 WKYS.

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.

Hundreds died.

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 all 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.

-Everybody's excited.

-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 energy.

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 "Essence."



-The decision around "Essence"

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 Ebony

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 Life magazine at the time

and Look 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 Ebony and Jet 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.

Tremendous impact.

Tremendous impact.

-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 still 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. -Never.

-Never. -Never.

-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.




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 Ebony and Jet.

-If given a chance, they can do it. We can do it.

Like, you know, so I think it's fantastic.

-I'm pleased.

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 billion.

-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♪

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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♪