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6 Successful Black Businesses You May Not Have Known About


Its often been called the agenda of the western world to under-educate its people on the vast accomplishments of African Americans. Fortunately it is my agenda to do just the opposite. Around the world African Americans, and African immigrants alike have had influence over every aspect of business, culture, and over all life as we know it today. So it should come as a shock that the overwhelming amount of success stories are under reported, and rarely discussed and acknowledged right? Maybe not so much considering this is America and the rules are a bit different here.

Nonetheless today I have decided to highlight six successful black businesses that you may not have known about. And what better than to start pre-MLK, after all our youth can only name a few heroes outside of him, and that is a disservice to their over all scope of possibilities manifested from Role models.

To begin this illustrious list we’l start with the oldest of the lot,

1. The African Insurance Company (1810)

The first African-American insurance company in the unites states, opened in Philadelphia. The insurance company was formed to give African-Americans another option for individuals who did not want to join the free African Society. (Which was the first black mutual aid society in Philadelphia)

The company could not sustain after 1813 due to not being able to attract a significant customer base. Non the less the early model provided by the African Insurance Company would eventually be adopted by many successful post-Civil War era black insurance companies.

Founder: Joseph Randolph

Year: 1810-1813

2.  C.R. Patterson & Sons Company (1900)

The first African-American owned automobile manufacturing company.

The company was founded by Charles Richard Patterson, who was an escaped slave from Virginia settling in Ohio. He partnered up with J.P. Lowe to form the company, both of them were in the carriage manufacturing business.

Frederick Patterson

The first Patterson-Greenfield car debuted in 1915 and was sold for $850. With a four-cylinder Continental engine, the car was comparable to the contemporary Ford Model T. The Patterson-Greenfield car may, in fact, have been more sophisticated than Ford’s car, but C.R. Patterson & Sons never matched Ford’s manufacturing capability. Eventually Ford, Chrysler and other company’s were outproducing the company and they switched direction to Buses and trucks. the company came to an end in 1939.

Founders: Charles Richard Patterson. Pictured above; his son Frederick Patterson with one of the first Automobile models (unfinished).

Year: 1915

3.  Highland Beach (1893)

One of the oldest and most popular African American owned resort towns. Founded by Charles Douglass (Son of Frederick Douglas) and his wife Laura summer of 1893, after they had been turned away from a restaurant at the nearby Bay Ridge resort because of their race.  They brought a 40-acre tract on the Chesapeake Bay with 500 feet of beachfront and turned it into a summer enclave for their family and friends.

Highland Beach Picnic Group, 1930
Highland Beach Picnic Group photo, 1930

4. Whipper’s Lumberyard (1835)

William Whipper

In 1835 William Whipper partnered with fellow black entrepreneur Stephen Smith in Columbia, Pennsylvania. The pair created one of the state’s premier lumberyards and accrued substantial wealth demonstrating the benefits of northern freedom. Whipper used his newfound wealth to further his personal fight for moral reform and abolition. He utilized his assets to the benefit of the antislavery movement by helping runaway slaves escape to the north. William Whipper operated a major Underground Railroad station and provided shelter for slaves primarily from Virginia and Maryland, moving them in part in the railroad cars he owned.

Founders: William Whipper & Stephen Smith

5.  St. Luke Penny Savings Bank (1903)

Founded by Maggie Walker who became the nation’s first woman to charter a U.S. bank, as well as its president.

“First we need a savings bank. Let us put our moneys together; let us use our moneys; let us put our money out at usury among ourselves, and reap the benefit ourselves. Let us have a bank that will take the nickels and turn them into dollars.” A quote from the Queen herself at the Independent Order of St. Luke Annual Convention
August 20, 1901

The St. Luke Penny Savings Bank issued 625 mortgages to black families in its first years of operation, remarkable for a time when it was extremely difficult for African Americans to receive mortgages from other banks.

6. Booker T. Washington Insurance Co. (1923)

Founded by A.G. Gaston, it was among the top ten African American owned life insurance companies in the country. The company is located in Birmingham, Alabama; is licensed in two states; and offers life, accident, and health coverage.

Realizing that there were not enough blacks with sufficient training to be able to work in the insurance and funeral industries, he and his second-wife established a business school. Other Gaston enterprises included Citizens Federal Savings and Loan Association, the first black-owned financial institution in Birmingham in more than forty years established by Gaston, when he saw how difficult it was for blacks to obtain fair loans from white financial companies, and a motel business started because of Gaston’s concern that blacks traveling through the south during segregation often could not find accommodations. He would use his wealth to aid in desegregating Alabama investing in leaders and movements, bailing Dr. MLK out of jail on several occasions.

This concludes our list of just a few successful black businesses that you may not have known about, but it does not end there, these are just a fingers pinch of a vast amount of people who helped shape this country into the America we have today. Though they may not see much recognition or praise they are deeply rooted in the books. Today We at HazieThoughts however Celebrate them for all their contributions from leadership, bravery, nerve to go against society to common day business. ‘Stay in the need to know’

1810-1923  “What a time to be Alive” indeed.

Mike Abrantie Current Los Angeles resident, South-side of Chicago Native, and Product of the Homeland Ghana West Africa, Mike Abrantie is a modern day historian and supporter of the people. From Civil rights to world topics and its affects on the lower and middle class, he is an advocate of Historical integrity and believes in knowledge being the root of motivation and creative inspiration.