The Business Trailblazers and Titans of Black America

The 40 most powerful African Americans in business-and how they shaped our world

When Black Enterprise published its first issue four decades ago, the era was marked by promise but not prosperity. The economic evolution of the African American business class had not yet begun. A year earlier, President Richard Nixon had signed Executive Order 11458, directing the Commerce Department to coordinate the federal government’s programs “which affect or may contribute to the establishment, preservation, and strengthening of minority business enterprise.” The directive gave birth to federal set-aside programs and public financing. The dawning of a new business era always begins with the audacious and the resolute—relentless innovators and industrial disruptors who realized that industries, people, or nations could not advance by embracing the status quo.

A phalanx of entrepreneurs and executives knew that for African Americans to progress, less than full participation in the business mainstream could not be an option. They fought the odds, suffered setbacks, regrouped, and eventually emerged victorious. Through each decade they changed the paradigm—whether doing so required the political activism of the 1970s, financial engineering of the 1980s, adoption of new technology in the 1990s, or the creation of flexible business models over the past decade. Whether they conducted business from their own offices or the executive suite, their professional excellence, deal-making prowess, and unwavering advocacy converted promise into channels of prosperity and levers of power.

The 40 men and women on the following pages could easily be considered trailblazers. They are, however, more than pioneers who withstood the elements—institutional racism, resistance from the business establishment, and lack of resources—to plant a flag on their own patch of territory. They’re titans: bold leaders who shattered conventional modes of commerce. Because of their contributions over the past 40 years, the world of business has been transformed forever.

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39 Responses to The Business Trailblazers and Titans of Black America

  1. Kevin Brown says:

    As a citizen of Gary,IN., I was quite suprised to to see the ranking Don Barden received on your titan list. When you consider the fact that he filed for bankruptcy last year and has become a hostile corporate citizen in the City of Gary(the city that gave him his break in the Gaming industry),I feel his 21st ranking is quite generous.

  2. Pingback: No. 24: Bill Mays, The King Of Chemicals - BLACK ENTERPRISE

  3. Pingback: No. 23: Ann Fudge, The Barrier Breaker - BLACK ENTERPRISE

  4. Pingback: No. 32: R. Donahue Peebles, The Real Estate Groundbreaker - BLACK ENTERPRISE

  5. Pingback: No. 34: Cathy Hughes, The Broadcasting Architect - BLACK ENTERPRISE

  6. Pingback: No. 22: Byron Lewis, The Image Maker - BLACK ENTERPRISE

  7. Pingback: No. 20: Earvin “Magic” Johnson, The Business All-Star - BLACK ENTERPRISE

  8. Pingback: No. 19: Dave Bing, The Man Of Steel - BLACK ENTERPRISE

  9. Don Sheu says:

    Enjoying this list. Last two links for sections 8 and 9 are not live. Anyway to request a fix? Thank you.

  10. Pingback: No. 18: John Rogers, The Investment Icon - BLACK ENTERPRISE

  11. Pingback: No. 17: George Johnson, The King Of Black Haircare - BLACK ENTERPRISE

  12. Pingback: No. 16: Berry Gordy, The Music Mogul - BLACK ENTERPRISE

  13. Pingback: TheCASHFLOW - The Titans: 40 Moguls Who Shaped Modern Black Business

  14. Pingback: No. 15: Arthur G. Gaston Sr., The Trailblazer - BLACK ENTERPRISE

  15. Pingback: No. 13: Ed Lewis/Clarence Smith/Susan Taylor, The Voice Of Black Women - BLACK ENTERPRISE

  16. Pingback: No. 14: Ursula Burns, The Corporate Innovator - BLACK ENTERPRISE

  17. Pingback: No. 21: Don Barden, The Visionary - BLACK ENTERPRISE

  18. Pingback: No. 12: Thomas Burrell, The Dean Of Black Advertising - BLACK ENTERPRISE

  19. Pingback: No. 11: Herman Russell, The Master Builder - BLACK ENTERPRISE

  20. Pingback: UBR Morning Post: Black Enterprise Titan Bill Mays - BLACK ENTERPRISE

  21. Pingback: No. 7: Richard Parsons, The Chief Strategist - BLACK ENTERPRISE

  22. Pingback: No. 10: Percy Sutton, The Godfather Of Black Radio - BLACK ENTERPRISE

  23. Pingback: No. 6: Oprah Winfrey, The Media Powerhouse - BLACK ENTERPRISE

  24. Pingback: No. 4: Kenneth Chenault, The Consummate leader - BLACK ENTERPRISE

  25. Pingback: No. 2: Robert L. Johnson, The Power Player - BLACK ENTERPRISE

  26. Pingback: No. 1: John H. Johnson, The Legend - BLACK ENTERPRISE

  27. Pingback: Black Enterprise Golf & Tennis Challenge: Tribute to the Titans - BLACK ENTERPRISE

  28. Gwen Kelly says:

    A powerful reminder: Success Runs in Our Race!

  29. Greg Henry says:

    I would like to commend Mr. Don Barden on his past accomplishments.  But he and the city of Gary Indiana is in a nasty court battle and to compound the problem even more, he has file for bankruptcy.  It is unfortunate that both sides has got to this point.  

  30. Pingback: UBR Morning Post: Ad Industry Titan Don Coleman - BLACK ENTERPRISE

  31. Pingback: Ask Janice » Blog Archive » JBH, the “Job Czar,” on BE’s Most Impactful Black Business Leaders List

  32. Pingback: Backtalk with Susan L. Taylor - BLACK ENTERPRISE

  33. Pingback: UBR Morning Post: Real Estate Titan Don Peebles | AfroBuzz Central

  34. Pingback: Leadership Lessons From the Navy Video Scandal - BLACK ENTERPRISE

  35. Pingback: Leadership Lessons From the Navy Video Scandal | AfroBuzz Central

  36. Pingback: Top 10: Women of Power | AfroBuzz Central

  37. Pingback: Paying Tribute to Atlanta's Master Builder, Herman J. Russell - Black Enterprise

  38. Pingback: Business Titan William Mays Dies at 69

  39. Pingback: Americans For African Adoption |

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