In the spirit of Black History Month, let’s take a look at some of the most successful black entrepreneurs throughout history.
The entrepreneurs celebrated below inspire us to go after what we want, help others along the way, and remember that no matter our circumstance, nothing is impossible.
1. John H. Johnson
Firstly, we have publisher, businessperson, and philanthropist John H. Johnson. Born in Arkansas in 1918, entrepreneur John Harold Johnson became the leading 20th century publisher of African American news magazines.
After working varied jobs for a few years, in 1942, with a $500 loan that was borrowed against his mother’s furniture, Johnson published Negro Digest. It was his attempt to create a publication for the black community that mimicked the style of the Reader’s Digest.
In 1982, Johnson became the first African-American to appear on Forbes 400. Currently, the Johnson Publishing Company employs more than 2,600 people and has sales of nearly $400 million.
2. Reginald F. Lewis
Then, there’s Reginald F. Lewis, one of the wealthiest black men in 1980s’ America. A graduate of Harvard Law School, Lewis founded the TLC Group L.P., a venture capital firm.
In 1987, he bought Beatrice International Foods for $985 million and renamed it TLC Beatrice International. The snack food, beverage, and grocery store conglomerate became the largest, black-owned managed business in the country.
That same year, the company reported a revenue of $1.8 billion, This made Lewis the first African-American to build a billion-dollar company.
3. Oprah Winfrey
You knew that this one was coming. Oprah is arguably the most recognizable black woman in the world.
Born to a single mother in rural Mississippi, Oprah was told early in her career that she was “unfit for television news”. She went on to host and produce her own talk show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and become the chairperson and CEO of Harpo, Inc.
According to Forbes, she is one of the richest black women in the U.S., with a personal net worth of $2.6 billion.
4. Michael Jordan
The legendary basketball player is undoubtedly one of the most successful black entrepreneurs in history.
As a teenager, Jordan was told by his coaches that he was too short to play the sport professionally. Fortunately, he ignored this advice and went on to play 15 seasons in the NBA. He subsequently became the most recognizable basketball player in the world. And he racked up an impressive record of points, wins, and awards.
Today, Nike’s Air Jordan line, or Jordan brand, named after the star athlete, is a billion-dollar business. And it doesn’t stop there. In November 2021, Sporting News named him the highest paid athlete of all time.
His current estimated net worth is $1.6 billion.
5. Robert L. Johnson
Now, Robert Johnson might not be as well known as Michael Jordan or Oprah Winfrey. But he’s had as big an impact on the media in the U.S.
Johnson is the founder of BET, the Black Entertainment Television network. After several years of increasing audience numbers and media reach, Viacom bought the company in 2000 for $2.9 billion. This made Robert Johnson the first black billionaire in America.
So, there you have it, these are some of the most successful black entrepreneurs in history. The remarkable leaders celebrated here have succeeded despite the odds being against them.
They achieved massive success not just from their business acumen, but through determination, perseverance, and skills.
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