When folks think Black History, they think Rosa Parks and Dr. King along with the “struggle” for civil rights. However, nary a mention is made of the moves we made in business.
For instance, I did not learn that during period of reconstruction up until around 1920, that black folks had accumulated 13 million acres of land until AFTER college. I did not learn that up until the point where the Civil Rights Act was signed that we owned the second largest transportation company in North America until AFTER college. Nor did I learn that a grandson of freed slaves grew up in a log cabin and ultimately died with a net worth of $130 million until AFTER college.
So, inasmuch as this is a network for businesses and professionals, I’ll be sharing my favorite black business leaders, stories, and anecdotes this Black History Month. A.G. tops my list.
A.G. Gaston lived a remarkably conservative life and was fundamentally opposed to the civil rights movement as he felt it would hurt black business and economic progress. I did. Dr King lamented; “I fear I’ve lead my people into a burning building.” That economic fire rages to this day. However, it should be noted that A.G. Gaston supported the Civil Rights movement financially which was antithetical to his business interests as a show of solidarity.
Finally, one of the most fascinating things about this man and his legacy is that he sold his empire to his employees at or below market value empowering them to create the generational wealth that escapes so many black folks today.
This man is one of my heroes. It’s just such a shame that so many kids going to school (even college students) may not learn of this man and our collective business economic history until… AFTER college.