Black History Business Titan: Ernesta Procope

When it comes to real estate, Ernesta Procope – the first female on Black Enterprise’s “BE 100” list – is a black history legend. The AG Gaston Lifetime Achievement Award winner’s 1953 creation of E.G. Bowman Co. broke ground as the first minority owned insurance brokerage firm located on Wall Street in 1979.  Featured on the August 1974 cover of Black Enterprise’s history making issue dedicated to African American female executives; Procope’s influence extended throughout corporate America thanks to board directorships with Avon Products and the Chubb Group. A recipient of the Black Enterprise Woman of Power Legacy Award in 2006, she laid the foundation for women thriving in business. “I never operated with a complex–as a woman, as a black woman, as a black. But instead, as a person in business,” she said. “We knew there were problems, but I could not let that be a deterrent to me.”

[Related: The Business Trailblazers and Titans of Black America]

At the urging of her husband, Brooklyn born Procope received her broker’s license and began a business dedicated to homeowner and auto insurance policies for those in the Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn neighborhood where she grew. Expanding to focus on real estate rehabilitation and development, Procope proved to insurance companies that financially stable middle class families lived in Bed-Stuy. Her ingenious idea to rent limos and bring insurance executives from Manhattan to Brooklyn helped eradicate the erroneous uninsurable perception. Expanding her power beyond one borough, Procope  successfully pushed New York Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller to back legislation making home owner’s insurance available to all throughout the state of New York.

A real estate expert and legend, Procope holds numerous honorary doctorates from Howard University,  Adelphi University, Marymount Manhattan College, and Morgan State University.

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