Trailblazing African American Businesswomen
Black Enterprise magazine Fall 2019 issue

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Mary McLeod Bethune
1904 Bethune starts the Daytona Beach Literary and Industrial School for Training Negro Girls, today known as Bethune-Cookman College. In 1923 she is one of the founders of the Central Life Insurance Co. and in 1935 forms the National Council of Negro Women.

Madam C.J. Walker
1905 America’s first female self-made millionaire (born Sarah Breedlove) creates a hair treatment, later establishing the Madam C.J. Walker Manufacturing facility and Walker College of Hair Culture. By 1917, the business had 20,000 sales agents and $500,000 in annual revenues.

Sarah Spencer Washington
1920 Washington starts Apex News and Hair Co., later owning extensive business properties including Apex Auditorium, Apex Drug Store, Apex Warehouse, several apartments, a beauty school, Apex Rest Tourist Retreat, a country club, and a nine-hole golf course.

Rose Morgan
1942 Morgan owns and operates the largest African American beauty parlor, the Rose Meta House of Beauty in New York City, later adding a wig salon and cosmetics line. In 1965 she is one of the founders of Freedom National Bank.

Ernesta Procope
1953 Procope creates E.G. Bowman, becoming the first female CEO included on the be 100s list when it premiered in 1973. E.G. Bowman is the first minority-owned insurance brokerage firm to be located on Wall Street in 1979.

Patricia Roberts Harris
1971 Harris is named to the board of directors at IBM, becoming the first African American woman to hold a corporate board seat. Other breakthroughs include first black woman to serve as a U.S. Cabinet secretary, first black woman to serve as a U.S. ambassador and the first to head an American law school (Howard University).

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