Barbara Graves, Wife of Black Enterprise Founder Earl Graves Sr., Dies

Family matriarch was a guiding force of Black Enterprise and a quiet source of strength and inspiration

Barbara Kydd Graves (Image: Courtesy of The Graves Family)

Barbara Eliza Graves (Image: Courtesy of The Graves Family)

Family matriarch and a guiding force of Black Enterprise, Barbara Eliza Graves succumbed early this morning at Howard University Hospital after a more than three-year battle with gall bladder cancer. She was 75.

The wife of Earl G. Graves Sr., the founder, chairman and publisher of Black Enterprise, she played a vital role in the growth and development of the publication and media company, and its mission of economic empowerment and wealth building for African Americans.

Since the launch of Black Enterprise Magazine in 1970, Barbara Graves, an alumna of Brooklyn College and a former elementary school teacher, held every major position, including editorial director, circulation director and chief financial officer, during the 40-plus-year history of this company. Along the way, she is credited with grooming and developing several generations of executive leadership, including sons Earl Jr., Johnny and Michael, all of whom have worked as executives at Black Enterprise. Graves also co-founded and guided the Black Enterprise Women of Power Summit, the premier networking event and conference for women executives of color.

“My mother was a steadfast and loving partner and counselor to my father; his quiet source of strength and inspiration,” says Earl Graves Jr., president and CEO of Black Enterprise. “She served as mentor and guide to several generations of employees, managers and professionals. Above all, she genuinely cared for every member of the Black Enterprise family, and held a special passion for children and young people in particular.”

In lieu of flowers, the Graves family requests that donations be made in the name of Barbara Graves to The Black Enterprise B.R.I.D.G.E. Foundation [A 501 (c)(3) Tax ID # 13-4353056], 130 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10011. The Black Enterprise B.R.I.D.G.E. Foundation’s mission is to advance young people’s education initiatives.

A wake will be held from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. on Friday, June 1, 2012 at Grace Baptist Church in Mount Vernon, N.Y. A public viewing will be held from 9:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, June 2, to be followed by a funeral service from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., also at Grace Baptist Church.


  • Devin James , founder of the Devin James Group

    Minority entrepreneurs all over the world should pause for a moment of silence in honor of Mrs. Graves. She was not only the wife of a legacy building man, she blazed trails of her own and raised the bar for women in many male dominated environments! Black Enterprise wouldn’t be what it is to day without her and I thank her and the family for what they have done to support my business and many others. To the BE family I pray you have strength and peace during your loss.

  • WM Woodard

    My condolences to the Graves family. May your many wonderful memories of Mrs. Graves console you in these coming days and weeks. My prayers are with you all during this time. — Wiley

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  • DH Harvey

    Rest in peace. See you in Paradise.(Acts 24:15, Revelation 21: 3-5)

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  • Cassandra

    To the Earl Graves family, and to all of Black Enterprise, you have my deepest condolences.


  • Brandon FG

    My prayers and condolences to the Graves family during their time of loss…

  • Gerald Yarn

    My family sends its Condolences to the Graves Family Mrs.G and my Mother were very close friends when my mother passed Mrs.G was first to our house
    Mrs. Graves was truly a remarkable Lady. To all of the Graves Family our prayers go out to each and all of you, may God Bless you all. The Yarn Family

  • Connie C.

    My heart goes out to Mr. Graves, Butch, Johnny and Michael. Mrs. Graves always showed protective love for all of them. What a remarkable family to have worked with in the early days of BE. May God Bless you all.

  • Edd Snyder

    What a wonderful family and a powerful matriarch. Prayers go out to all.

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  • Lurita B. Brown

    As an exBlack Enterprise employee in the late ’70’s young, eager and very impressionble Mrs. Graves will remain very special as a role model of courage,professional grace, beauty and geniune compassion. So saddened to learn another mighty Oak has fallen. Deepest condolence to Mr. Graves and Family. Lurita B. Brown




    Black Enterprise has been a part of my life from its early beginnings. My condolences are extended to the entire Black Enterprise family.

    Roger Madison
    iZania, LLC

  • Charlotte

    Mrs. Graves was such an inspiration. Our condolences to the family. We will keep you in our prayers.

  • Gail Jones

    My sincere condolences to the Graves n BE family during this time. May God’s peace comfort u all during this time

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  • MusaLuka

    Came across BE here in Nigeria through the American Corner and have since become an addict. To the Graves and all your relations, here’s sending my deepest condolences.

  • Angela Buckner, MJ Synergy Group

    The founding power behind the “Women of Power” has extended her wings and left a legacy of Women leaders throughout the country. We will miss her physical presence at the conferences to come, but her spiritual presence will be felt always. Rest in peace, dear sister. To your family, we pray for you all as you celebrate the Lady! God has to be smiling and saying “Well done”.

  • Dr. Bobby Mitchell

    My prayers and thoughts are with the Graves family during this difficult time.Truly she will leave a void on this earth that will never be filled. Much Love and Respect for the life of a wonderful women.

  • Natalie

    My thoughts and prayers are with the Graves family.  

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  • Rharper

    Over the years, I had the pleasure of meeting Mrs. Graves on several occasions. She was the epitome of the gentle giant. She was a woman. Her movement, her smile and her graceful style forced you to yield in her presence. However, her humble nature willed her to stop for strangers’ handshakes or a pictures. She was beauty in motion; and while I didn’t know her well enough to call or stop by, my respect for her is monumental; and, I loved her in my personal space. As the world will, I will miss her. May she “REST” in peace. Ralph Harper

  • What sad news to hear.  I’ve photographed Mr. Graves and his sons at various events since the 70’s but I only met Mrs. Graves for the first time in 2000 at the Tom Joyner/Donna Richardson wedding in Montego Bay, Jamaica.  Mrs. Graves was so graceful and approachable.  A really special partner to Earl and a wonderful mother to her sons and the rock for the entire family.  She will be missed. 

  • William W. Alderman

    When I was growing up in rual South Eastern, NC,! There was an old saying. “behind every good man, is a good woman”. I grew up hearing that so VERY often.It was true. Ms. Graves, among so many other notable women in business and personal life, defined that erm to SUCh a degree. My mother, behind and long side my father. Ms. Graves leaves such a leagacy for your women to follow and emulate. Her lifes work will be with us for decades to come

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