African American Entrepreneurs

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America, always revered as the land of opportunity, is rich in stories about ambitious, determined individuals who worked hard and built businesses of their own. Yet, few people know about the many African American entrepreneurs who helped shape the American dream. This collection brings their stories to life.

In every century, succeeding in business has required courage, ideas, the willingness to take risks, and the desire to succeed. For an African American man or woman, ...

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America, always revered as the land of opportunity, is rich in stories about ambitious, determined individuals who worked hard and built businesses of their own. Yet, few people know about the many African American entrepreneurs who helped shape the American dream. This collection brings their stories to life.

In every century, succeeding in business has required courage, ideas, the willingness to take risks, and the desire to succeed. For an African American man or woman, building a business also meant struggling against prejudice and working even harder than many others. Those who succeed are not just good businessmen and -women, they are heroes and heroines.

In this vivid, inspiring collection, you will meet more than thirty fascinating African American entrepreneurs, from the eighteenth century up to the present, who overcame the odds against them. You'll discover little-known facts about their families, and the exciting times in which they lived. Along the way, you'll witness the triumph of talent, ingenuity, and perseverance.

Ranging from cattle ranching to magazine publishing and computers, these stories show you how:

  • Marie-Thérèse Metoyer, born into slavery, started her own plantation.
  • Pierre Toussaint, born a slave in Haiti, became rich as a hairdresser in New York.
  • Granville T. Woods, an engineer, could not find work after the Civil War because he was black. So he started inventing. During his life, he registered more than sixty patents.
  • Henry G. Parks, using an old Virginia sausage recipe, built a national food company.
  • Alphonse "Buddy" Fletcher Jr., one of Wall Street's most successful stock traders, started his own firm before he was even thirty years old.

This outstanding collection brings to light these and dozens of other exciting and surprising tales of entrepreneurs who lived their dreams.

Meet the black stars who lived their dreams—from the early years to modern times

Richard Henry Boyd
Janet Harmon Bragg
Paul Cuffe
Alphonse "Buddy" Fletcher Jr.
James Forten
A. G. Gaston
Berry Gordy Jr.
Earl G. Graves
Thomas L. Jennings
John H. Johnson
Quincy Jones
Elizabeth Keckley
Shelton Jackson "Spike" Lee
William Leidesdorff
Reginald F. Lewis
"Free Frank" McWorter
Marie-Thérèse Metoyer
Oscar Micheaux
Henry G. Parks
Philip A. Payton Jr.
David Ruggles
Jake Simmons Jr.
Ada "Bricktop" Smith
Charles Clinton Spaulding
Pierre Toussaint
Dempsey J. Travis
Madame C. J. Walker
Maggie Lena Walker
Omar Wasow
Oprah Winfrey
Granville T. Woods

Profiles a variety of African American entrepreneurs, from the early years, through the Civil War and Reconstruction, to modern times.

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Editorial Reviews

Detroit Free Press
"Wiley Publishers offers two from its Black Stars series that are sure to keep children's thinking caps operating during the heat. Each offers finely crafted short biographies of some well-known and some almost-unheard-of giants in their fields." --Detroit Free Press
Children's Literature - Marilyn Courtot
Black entrepreneurs are better known than most other figures from black history, and Haskins brings readers biographies about some of the better known names such as Madame C. J. Walker, Berry Gordy and John H. Johnson. Some enterprising individuals like Marie-Thèrése Metoyer struggled to make enough money to free family members from slavery. Elizabeth Keckley in the 1860's served as a dressmaker to Mary Todd Lincoln, yet died in poverty and obscurity. Pictures, drawings, excerpts from letters and documents are interspersed. The black and white illustrations are muddy, which may be due to the quality of the originals, although even those from modern times are not that great. That aside, there is a wealth of information presented in a readable style. The book also has a chronology, notes, bibliography and index. An excellent resource for any school or public library, this book is part of the "Black Stars" series.
School Library Journal
Gr 6 Up-Beginning with the 1700s, Haskins describes the accomplishments of African Americans who, against all odds, started successful businesses. Readers learn about Marie-Th r se Metoyer, who made enough money from planting and trapping to free various members of her family from slavery, and Elizabeth Keckley, who had a successful dressmaking business in the 1860s, becoming Mary Todd Lincoln's personal dressmaker. Accounts of contemporary entrepreneurs include Berry Gordy, Jr.; Oprah Winfrey; and Omar Wasow, a young cyperspace pioneer. Black-and-white photographs and reproductions, many dark with little contrast, illustrate the text. Throughout, sidebars provide historical background and difficult words are defined in the margins. Written in a clear, readable style, this title will enhance African-American history collections.-Carol Jones Collins, Montclair Kimberley Academy, NJ
Kirkus Reviews
Haskins (Black, Blue, and Gray, 1998, etc.) profiles 31 African-Americans, including seven women, who overcame towering obstacles of law and custom to achieve financial success in fields such as banking, cosmetics, electrical engineering, music, and real estate. Some, such as plantation (and slave) owner Marie-Th‚rŠse Metoyer worked to buy freedom for their families; some exploited white prejudice to occupy unfilled market niches; all displayed plenty of courage, initiative, and ingenuity. The careers of people such as Paul Cuffe, Madame C.J. Walker, and Oprah Winfrey are already well-documented, but hairdresser Pierre Toussaint, filmmaker Oscar Michaeux, and businessman A.G. "It doesn't do any good to arrive at first-class citizenship if you arrive broke" Gaston will be less familiar to readers, and the gallery includes still-rising stars Alphonse Fletcher, Jr. (financial management) and Omar Wasow (computer entrepreneur). Dividing the work into "The Early Years," "The Civil War Years and Reconstruction," "Into the New Century," and "Modern Times," Haskins draws information from published, mostly secondary, sources, and generally steers clear of personal details and extended quotations, so there isn't much sense of his subjects' individual characters or voices. The diversity of their paths to success, however, makes a refreshing change from the "official" versions offered by most athletes and other celebrities, putting this a step above school assignment fodder. (b&w illustrations, index, not seen, chronology, bibliography) (Biography. 10-13)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781118436134
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 4/24/2012
  • Series: Black Stars Series
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 192
  • Age range: 11 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 7.40 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

JIM HASKINS has written more than ninety books for young readers, including Diary of a Harlem School Teacher; his collaboration with Rosa Parks on her autobiography, Rosa Parks: My Story; and Black Eagles: African Americans in Aviation. He is Professor of English at the University of Florida, Gainesville, and winner of numerous awards, including the Washington Post Children's Book Guild Award for the body of his work and the Coretta Scott King Book Award.

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Table of Contents


Marie-Therese Metoyer.

Paul Cuffe.

James Forten.

Pierre Toussaint.

"Free Frank" McWorter.

Thomas L. Jennings.

William Leidesdorff.

David Ruggles.


Elizabeth Keckley.

Richard Henry Boyd.

Granville T. Woods.


Madame C. J. Walker.

Maggie Lena Walker.

Charles Clinton Spaulding.

Philip A. Payton Jr.

Oscar Michaeux.

A. G. Gaston.

Ada "Bricktop" Smith.

Jake Simmons Jr.

Janet Harmon Bragg.


Henry G. Parks.

John H. Johnson.

Dempsey J. Travis.

Berry Gordy Jr.

Quincy Jones.

Earl G. Graves.

Reginald F. Lewis.

Oprah Winfrey.

Shelton Jackson "Spike" Lee.

Alphonse "Buddy" Fletcher Jr.

Omar Wasow.




Picture Credits.


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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 11, 2008

    This book is absolutely outstanding!

    This book is absolutely an outstanding synopsis of many African-American's contribution to society! This book is absolutely an outstanding synopsis of many African-American's contribution to society! I've learned so much! R. H. Boyd's black owned bank was the only bank to survive the Great Depression! Free Frank McWorter worked for 25 years buying back his wife and children that were still slaves. W. Leidesdorff owned his own massive ships and had employees. G. T. Woods shouldn't be considered the black Edison. Edison should be considered the white Woods since Woods had patent on the railway telegraph device first. D. Ruggles was the first black bookseller he even established a reading room! I've learned so much!

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