Black Fortunes: The Story of the First Six African Americans Who Escaped Slavery and Became Millionaires by Shomari Wills
“By telling the little-known stories of six pioneering African American entrepreneurs, Black Fortunes makes a worthy contribution to black history, to business history, and to American history.”—Margot Lee Shetterly, New York Times Bestselling author of Hidden Figures
Between the years of 1830 and 1927, as the last generation of blacks born into slavery was reaching maturity, a small group of industrious, tenacious, and daring men and women broke new ground to attain the highest levels of financial success.
Mary Ellen Pleasant used her Gold Rush wealth to further the cause of abolitionist John Brown. Robert Reed Church became the largest landowner in Tennessee. Hannah Elias, the mistress of a New York City millionaire, used the land her lover gave her to build an empire in Harlem. Orphan and self-taught chemist Annie Turnbo-Malone, developed the first national brand of hair care products. Mississippi school teacher O. W. Gurley, developed a piece of Tulsa, Oklahoma, into a “town” for wealthy black professionals and craftsmen that would become known as “the Black Wall Street.” Although Madam C. J Walker was given the title of America’s first female black millionaire, she was not. She was the first, however, to flaunt and openly claim her wealth—a dangerous and revolutionary act.
Nearly all the unforgettable personalities in this amazing collection were often attacked, demonized, or swindled out of their wealth. Black Fortunes illuminates as never before the birth of the black business titan.
By telling the little-known stories of six pioneering African American entrepreneurs, Black Fortunes makes a worthy contribution to black history, to business history, and to American history.” - Margot Lee Shetterly, New York Times Bestselling author of Hidden Figures
“Shomari Wills captures six African Americans who did the improbable, who somehow escaped slavery, someway evaded racist traps, and by some means arrived and remained at wealth. Black Fortunes is as astonishing and rich as the lives of the first Black millionaires it chronicles.”
- Ibram X. Kendi, National Book Award-winning Author of Stamped from the Beginning
“[An] engaging profile of the first African Americans to become millionaires… Black Fortunes provides necessary context to [their] achievements and as such is a significant addition to our ever-evolving understanding of collective history.” - Washington Post
PUBLISHER: Amistad (January 29, 2019)