Street Journal, BusinessWeek, and Fortune all but ignored the challenges and triumphs of black entrepreneurs. I developed what came to be know as the be 100 — and, due to the rapid growth of black business 16 years after that list’s inception, the be 100s — because I thought there was a need to have the world know where African American business was and where it could go. We needed to track that growth over a period of years so that someone 50 years from now could write about what we have done.
That thrust became another part of our mission: to be a publication of record for black business and economic development. That ideal gave birth to our black enterprise Board of Economists. After first reporting in our May 1982 issue, our BEBE, as we affectionately call this distinguished group of economists that includes former Fed governors, cabinet members, and Nobel prize laureates, would provide an annual economic outlook for black America. In fact, their prescriptive advice would not only be heeded but also adopted by policymakers in Washington and laymen alike.
Over the years, we have been compelled to develop report cards, if you will, on every area of business that affects us. For example, during the 1980s and 1990s, we developed rankings for the Fortune 500 companies with the best track records for the hiring, retention, and promotion of African Americans, to listings of the most powerful and influential black men and women in corporate America and on Wall Street, and listings of the top black professionals and corporate directors. The purpose of these lists was twofold: to share with you the news of glass ceilings being shattered and identify barriers yet to be broken.
What has made my chest swell with pride has been our prescience in identifying African Americans who literally changed the world in which we live and work. Also, I have been touched by receiving letters from and talking to legions of entrepreneurs and corporate executives who tell me that if it wasn’t for black enterprise, they wouldn’t have had the crit
ical information to launch their enterprise, attend B-school, or deal with racism in corporate America. It was black enterprise that first brought the late deal maker extraordinaire, Reginald Lewis, to the attention of the world and chronicled his development of TLC Beatrice into the nation’s first black-owned billion-dollar Fortune 500 company. It was black enterprise that foretold the rise of Avis’ Barry Rand, Maytag’s Lloyd Ward, Symantec’s John Thompson, Fannie Mae’s Franklin Raines, and, within the next year, American Express’ Ken Chenault to the CEO’s chair of Fortune 500 corporations and reported the rise of other business leaders of the new millennium. And, it was black enterprise that realized the importance of the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s candidacy for the presidency of the United States as well as forecasted that L. Douglas Wilder would reign as the first black governor of Virginia, the home of the Old Confederacy; David Dinkins would become the first black mayor of