Most Successful Black People In History


It is actually encouraging that many people of color are making names right now. From basketball to hip hop, they are starting to find their own identities. Many of them are also finding luck in the entertainment industry. Then there’s Nelson Mandela who became the symbol of equality for the rest of the world. Although some are still discriminated, one can say that they have come a long way since they are viewed as equals by other races.

This post presents a list people with African-descent who were able to find entrepreneurial success throughout history.

12Patrice Motsepe

Patrice Motsepe

This South African business magnate hailed from a simple family of teachers who eventually became businessmen. From there, he was exposed to the basic principles of mining and founded the African Rainbow Metals. This company then became a multibillion dollar mineral mining firm. He is also the non-executive chairman of the 12th largest gold mining company in the world – the Harmony Gold.

Motsepe is currently the richest man in South Africa. He was also listed as the 503rd richest man in the world, according to Forbes. As a side note, he gave about half of his wealth to charitable purposes.

11Ursula Burns

Ursula Burns

Burns is the first Black American woman CEO to be featured in Forbes 500 by having the position at Xerox on 2009. Currently the 29th most powerful woman in the world, she started her career as a humble intern. Burns remained in the sidelines in the most of her 20s until she became an executive assistant of a senior executive. She continued climbing the corporate ladders until she became the senior vice president. Burns worked with the CEO Anne Mulcahly back then. She is also the first woman to succeed another woman CEO in the history.

Aside from her stint as the CEO of Xerox, she is also involved in numerous community works. Some of these are Boston Scientific, The Business Council and Change the Equation.

10Annie Malone

Annie Malone

She was an American inventor and businesswoman most known for creating beauty products tailed for Black Americans. Born from slave parents, she was orphaned at a young age. She had also a knack for chemistry in school but she quit because of her frequent illness. Then she discovered her penchant for cosmetics while out of school. She began selling her products door to door but the demands grew so much and she made her own shop in St. Louis. After following an advice from a friend, she copyrighted her products and named it Poro. Malone has become a multimillionaire at the peak of her business. She was also able to make her own school dedicated in serving African Americans.

Although the Great Depression and a couple of litigations hit her hard, her business continued to thrive until her death. She died at a ripe age of 87.

9Robert Louis Johnson

Robert Louis Johnson

He is an American businessman and media magnate who soon became the first Black American billionaire. Soon after graduating the university, he was introduced to the television industry. He first served as the public affairs director for Corporation for Public Broadcasting. That was there he realized the untapped power of the television. He soon left the company and made his own business.

He created Black Entertainment Television which was the first television network to aim squarely at African Americans. It made names to the television industry ever since it made a profit in 1985. It became the first company headed by an African American in the New York Stock Exchange. In the early 2000s, BET was absorbed by Viacom for a whopping $3 billion. He hold the CEO position until 2006. His stints do not end there. He also founded RLJ Companies, a firm which aims on invest in different business sectors. He has also become a member of the Board of Directors for many companies.

8Jay Z

Jay Z

He is not only one of the best-selling artists of all time but also made a successful business empire as well. Aside from making records in the entertainment industry, he is known for having lines of business ranging from beverages to clothing. Jay Z owns the 40/40 Club and is the former president of the highly successful Def Jam Records. His biggest acquisition so far came from the $200 million deal with Armand de Brignac, a champagne making firm. Their products are aimed with high profile personalities and are often referred as the gold bottles used in commercials.

At the present, he is eyeing in the music streaming business in which he acquired a Norwegian media company. He named it Tidal and has been in operation since 2014.

7William Leidesdorff Jr.

William Leidesdorff Jr.

He was dubbed as the first Black American millionaire at the time of his death in 1848. Leidesdorff is also classified as the first Black American diplomat and one of the founding people of the state of California. He was quite an enigmatic man as his origins are in dispute. Nonetheless, he is universally honored as someone from a mixed race. He worked as a cotton broker in maritime, trade finding tremendous success there. Due to his heartbreak from a failed relationship (his lover’s family was status conscious), he moved to California. Leidesdorff also built the first hotel in San Francisco.

He has handled several positions in town and owned many properties before the time of his death. At the time of his death, he is said to amass fortunes over $1.5 million dollars ($30 million dollars in today’s money – which is not much, but consider this was enormous since back then, most rich people would gravitate around $100,000).

6Maggie Lena Walker

Maggie Lena Walker

This African-American teacher is the first woman ever to establish a bank in the United States. She established the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank where she became the first president. Due to its expansion, it merged with two Richmonds banks and became The Consolidated Bank and Trust Company. She also became its chairman of the board of directors.

She dedicated her life making changes for the improvement of African-American lives. Walker joined the local council of the Independent Order of St. Luke. This organization is aimed to help the disabled, promote humanitarian causes and encourage self-help. She eas the Grand Secretary of the said organization until her death.

5John Harold Johnson

John Harold Johnson

This African-American businessman thrived on publishing magazines. He founded Johnson Publishing Company which publishes the Negro Digest. It was a publication dedicated to the black community being the same theme as Reader’s Digest. The same company also publishes Ebony and Jets Magazine. He also expanded his business to cosmetics for colored race. Fashion Care and Cosmetics has since become the world’s number one make up and skin care brand for black American. In 1982, he became the first black American to be in the Forbes 400.

He has gone very far from the kid being taunted in school and a $500 loan from his mother to start his business. He became a multimillionaire, ruling over a business empire. As of this day, his company employs thousands of people and earns around $400 million a year.

4Sarah Breedlove

Sarah Breedlove

Most known as Madam C.J. Walker, she became the first self-made Black American millionaire after her success in the line of cosmetics for black women. The Madame C.J. Walker Company was considered as the most successful African-American company in the 20th century. Her inspiration came from the adverse skin reaction she has experienced in using beauty products. She became an agent of Annie Malone and she adopted the knowledge of making hair products. Walker also advised Malone to copyright her product to avoid infringement.

She moved with her husband on Pittsburg to work on her own beauty products. There, she opened the Leila College and trained her workers. They soon relocated to Indianapolis to establish her beauty facility and headquarters. Her business expanded in the whole of United States, Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica and other Caribbean nations due to her smart strategy of multi-level marketing.

3Aliko Dangote

Aliko Dangote

He is currently the richest person of black descent with over $18 billion in net assets as of 2015. He was designated as the Person of the Year in Africa by Forbes, in 2014. He is also the richest person on the continent of Africa.  Although he was already rich (from a prominent family), before he inherited anything, he started as a small company in the 1970s. It has since became the biggest industrial company in Nigeria.

Presently, the Dangote Group of companies dominates Nigeria in the sugar industry, capturing 70% of the market. He also owns the largest refinery and in the world. He has expanded in other lines of work, such as telecommunications or constructions. Both of which attained success as are hailed as the largest firms in Nigeria in their respective industries. As of today, his group of companies is one of the largest employers in West Africa. He also believes that no one else will help Nigeria none other than themselves.

2Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey

Perhaps one of the most famous in this list, this media mogul rose to popularity on The Oprah Winfrey Show which ran from 1986 to 2011. She encountered numerous hardships when she was young until she found her talent in anchoring and hosting. Winfrey then started her own production company after boosting a daytime show to success. Since then, she changed the way on how we perceive media communication. Her show shattered ratings and garnered the highest viewership for its kind. Her Michael Jackson interview remains as one of the most watched shows in the United States, with 36.5 million viewers. She then expanded her stint in acting and book publishing.

Winfrey is now the richest self-made woman in the United States with net assets in excess of $3.1 billion. She was also the first billionaire Black American woman in history and one of the two black billionaires in the America.

1Mo Ibrahim

Mo Ibrahim

Dubbed the most powerful black man in Britain, this Sudanese-British entrepreneur found his fortune in telecommunications. Born in Sudan, he finished his education in Egypt then got his job in the United Kingdom. He was a former employee of British Telecom until he founded his own consultancy and software company, the MSI. It later spawn a mobile company in Africa namely the Celtel.

Aside from his stint in business, he is a respected international philanthropist. He initiated the Mo Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership. It rewards African leaders who have developed their countries out of poverty and promotes democracy in the continent. The prize in this award amounted to $5 million dollars plus $200,000 annually for the rest of the life of the awardee. This is the world’s largest amount given by an award-giving body which exceeds the Nobel Peace Prize. Through this, he was able to give his contribution in transforming Africa.


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