Black History Month: Celebrating the Power of Black Entrepreneurship

Black History Month: Celebrating the Power of Black Entrepreneurship

During Black History Month, we recognize the barriers and celebrate the achievements of Black Entrepreneurs. Their stories are a part of our history. This timeline highlights significant moments in the history of Black entrepreneurship.


1700s – 1863: Black townships are established across the United States. Freed and enslaved African Americans started businesses in professions such as tobacconists, shoemakers, barbers, and more.

1810: In 1810, Joseph Randolph founded the first black-owned insurance company in the U.S., the African Insurance Company in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The business model provided by the company would eventually be adopted by many successful post-Civil War era black insurance companies.

1827: The first Black newspaper, Freedom’s Journal, was established the same year slavery was abolished in New York State.

1863-1877: Emancipation and the start of the Reconstruction era. More Black-owned businesses begin popping up, including banks, undertakers, insurance companies, and more.

1900 – 1930: The National Negro Business League (later renamed the National Business League in 1966) was established by Booker T. Washington, ushering in what historian Juliet E.K. Walker called “the Golden Age of Black business” until 1930.

1921: Armed rioters attacked Black residents, homes, and businesses, as well as cultural and public institutions in the Greenwood District of Tulsa, OK known as “Black Wall Street,” one of the wealthiest Black communities in the United States. As a result of this attack, 190 businesses were destroyed, and 10,000 people were left homeless.

1930s: The Great Depression was the worst economic downturn in the industrialized world. It caused the African American unemployment rate to climb to approximately 50%. Said to be “last hired, first fired,” African Americans were the first to see hours and jobs cut, and they experienced the highest unemployment rate during the 1930s.

1971: Joan and George Johnson cofounded a hair care products company, Johnson Products Co., in Chicago, Illinois. It became the first Black-owned company listed on the American Stock Exchange.

1980s: Reginald Lewis is the first Black Business-Owner to build a billion-dollar company, TLC International Holding.

2002-2007: The number of black-owned businesses increases by 60.5 percent – more than triple the national rate of 18.0 percent – reaching 1.9 million.

2010: The creation of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Protection Act assisted Black-owned businesses in procuring more federal contracts. This Act also established the Office of Minority and Women Inclusion (OMWI) which develops standards for equal employment opportunity and the racial, ethnic, and gender diversity of the workforce.

2020 – 2023: Black business owners own over three million businesses and employ almost 1.2 million people. Major corporations pledge millions to help eradicate systemic racism. Diversity and inclusion initiatives are enacted in businesses of all sizes.