As we celebrate Black History Month we thought it would be appropriate to devote this week’s blog to renowned African-American business leaders. After all, workforce development is the core of Goodwill of Greater Washington’s mission and these visionaries led the way in providing employment for so many.
We begin close to home with Cathy Hughes. In 1980 Ms. Hughes founded Radio One and purchased a local radio station – WOL. The company has since expanded to 70 radio stations plus a television network. When the company went public in 1999 she became the first African-American woman to head a publicly traded company.
In 1982 John H. Johnson became the first African-American to appear on the Forbes 400. He was the founder of Johnson Publishing Company which includes Ebony and Jet magazines. Currently, the company employs 2,600 people with annual sales of nearly $400 million.
In 1902 Maggie Lena Walker became the first woman – of any race – to charter a bank in the United States – the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank.
Robert L. Johnson founded the Black Entertainment Television (BET) network and became the first African-American billionaire. He was also the former majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats of the NBA.
Her real name was Sarah Breedlove. But most came to know her as Madam C.J. Walker. Due to an early hair loss, she developed a line of cosmetics and beauty aids catering to Black women. As a result, she became one of the first African-American millionaires.
Ulysses Bridgeman – playing under the name “Junior” – had a relatively successful twelve-year NBA career. He now heads up Manna Inc. and ERJ Inc. – companies that are worth almost $500 million thanks, in large part, to the 163 Wendy’s restaurants they operate.
DC native Roger W. Ferguson, Jr. was Vice Chairman of the Board of Governors for the Federal Reserve System. In 2008 he took over as CEO of retirement provider TIAA-CREF which is ranked #88 on the Fortune 500.
These nine people are merely a small sampling of the literally hundreds and hundreds of African-American visionaries and business leaders that have contributed to the continued success of our country. Take a moment to research their stories and you’ll see tales of commitment, persistence, and bravery. These people embody the qualities we all seek in ourselves and the people who work for and with us.