John Johnson, founder of Ebony and Jet

Black History Month is the perfect time to learn about the more lesser known aspects of African-American history. These successful Black-owned companies were some of the first of their kind and paved the way for the many African-American entrepreneurs who came after them.
Check out our list of some of the first Black-owned businesses we think you should know about:

North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company

Founded by one of the most influential Black businessmen in 1898, Charles Clinton Spaulding, North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company became the largest Black-owned business in the nation. Today, the company is located in Durham, North Carolina and remains the largest Black-owned insurance company in the U.S.

Johnson Publishing Company

Established in 1942, Johnson Publishing Company became the largest Black-owned publishing company in the nation. Founder John H. Johnson created several publications designed for Black audiences such Negro Digest, Ebony, and Jet. His creative spirit and dedication to his company led him to become the first African-American listed on the Forbes 400 wealthiest American’s list.

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Poro College

In 1918, Annie Malone, the world’s first Black female millionaire, founded Poro College. It served as a cosmetology school, business office, operation facility, and civic functions gathering center for Black women. Valued at over $1 million, the college included classrooms, barber shops, a gymnasium, theater, chapel, and laboratories. By the mid-1950s, it had thirty-two branches across the U.S.

TLC Beatrice International

Beatrice Foods was established in 1894 under the name, Haskell and Bosworth. After changing its name to Beatrice Foods Co. to represent its change from dairy foods to grocery products, it was sold to Reginald Lewis in 1987. The Harvard Law graduate went on to grow the business into the first African-American built billion-dollar company, TLC Beatrice International.

C.R. Patterson & Sons Company

After escaping slavery in 1861, Charles Richard Patterson would go on to organize one of the most successful carriage building firms in 1893. The firm assembled 28 types of horse-drawn carriages and employed roughly 10-15 people of color. When Charles died in 1910, his son Frederick converted the carriage company into the first African American-owned automobile manufacturer.

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Thanks to the success of all the first Black-owned businesses, we can enjoy a more-inclusive business world today.

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