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      Oldest Black-Owned Businesses in America

      Posted by Craig Donofrio on Sunday, February 18, 2024 Under: #EssexCounty

      Leah Chase, the Queen of Creole Cuisine.© Provided by Work + Money

      Black businesses are rich in history. From newspapers to banks to restaurants and more, Black-owned businesses are an integral part of American life.

      Today, Black men and women own 2.6 million businesses across the United States, roughly 9.5 percent of businesses in the country.

      But which ones have endured the longest? These are some of the oldest Black-owned businesses in America, with the very oldest listed last.

      Beauchamp Distributing Company

      Beauchamp Distributing Company in Compton, California.© Provided by Work + Money

      Year founded: 1971

      Location: Compton, California

      Type of business: Distribution

      Bottom line: Beauchamp Distributing Company was the first Black-owned Miller Brewing Company distributor in the country.

      It started as seven employees and 300 accounts. Now, it has over 100 employees and over 3,000 accounts, according to its website. 

      Miller made the decision to offer Patrick Beauchamp its distributorship after the Watts riots of 1965, in order to signal it was pro-Black and also to gain an audience with inner-city minorities. 

      Dorsey's Art Gallery

      A retro photo of Dorsey's Art Gallery, which has been around since 1970.© Provided by Work + Money

      Year founded: 1970

      Location: Brooklyn, New York

      Type of business: Art

      Bottom line: Dorsey's Art Gallery is the oldest Black-owned art gallery in New York City.

      The gallery was founded by Lawerence Peter Dorsey, a master framer who learned his craft under an elderly owner of an art framing store. In 1970, the owner sold Dorsey his business. From then until his death in 2007 at the age of 88, Dorsey promoted Black artists and held art exhibitions at his gallery. 

      The gallery continues serving New York's art community.


      Black Enterprise

      August 1974 issue of Black Enterprise.© Provided by Work + Money

      Year founded: 1970

      Location: New York, New York

      Type of business: Multimedia

      Bottom line: Black Enterprise began as a business magazine for Black people in 1970.

      Founded by Brooklyn-born entrepreneur Earl G. Graves Sr., Black Enterprise is now a multimedia company with print and digital magazine editions, as well as television shows. 

      Earl Graves Sr. passed away in April of 2020 at the age of 85. His son, Earl Graves Jr., now runs the company. 



      The OneUnited Bank in Dorchester, Massachusetts.© Provided by Work + Money

      Year founded: 1968

      Location: Boston, Massachusetts

      Type of business: Bank

      Bottom line: OneUnited is the largest Black-owned bank in America.

      It has roots in 1968, with the founding of Boston-based Unity Bank and Trust. That bank was a Black-owned bank, founded by a Black graduate of Harvard Business School and had a mission to serve minorities.

      Unity failed and was reorganized in 1982 as the Boston Bank of Commerce. In 2001, it merged with Black-owned Founders National Bank of Los Angeles and became OneUnited Bank. 


      Sylvia's Restaurant

      Sylvia's Restaurant in Harlem.© Provided by Work + Money

      Year founded: 1962

      Location: Harlem, New York City

      Type of business: Restaurant

      Bottom line: Sylvia's Restaurant has been serving soul food for over 55 years, ever since Sylvia Woods opened its doors in 1962.

      Woods moved to New York City with her husband in the 1940s and worked in a Brooklyn factory. Tired of the long commute, she stopped by a restaurant and asked for a job. She lied to the owner and said she had experience and burned herself on a spigot when trying to get him a cup of coffee. 

      Woods bought that same restaurant almost a decade later for $20,000, with her mother mortgaging the family farm to come up with the money. Woods, who died in 2012 at the age of 86, was a celebrated figure of New York City and was nicknamed the "Queen of Soul Food."

      Sylvia's can be seen in Spike Lee's "Jungle Fever," or it can be seen in-person at 328 Lenox Avenue in Harlem.


      Marcus Books

      Marcus Books, the oldest Black-owned bookstore in America.© Provided by Work + Money

      Year founded:1960

      Location: Oakland, California

      Type of business: Bookstore

      Bottom line: Marcus Books is the oldest Black bookstore in America.

      The original Marcus Books location opened in 1960 in San Francisco, but the shop has moved locations. Notably, in 1975, the owners established an Oakland location, which is still thriving today despite many obstacles. The San Francisco location closed in 2014 due to rising rents.

      In April 2020, Marcus Books had a fundraiser on GoFundMe and raised over $256,000 — $56,000 more than its original goal. 


      Hakim's Bookstore

      Hakim's Bookstore in Philadelphia.© Provided by Work + Money

      Year founded: 1959

      Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

      Type of business: Bookstore

      Bottom line: Hakim's Bookstore was founded by Dawud Kaim, who stocked his bookstore full of books about Black history and culture, as well as books on Islamic culture and holistic health.

      As such, Hakim's Bookstore became a haven for those looking for rare books — books that couldn't be found in white-owned bookstores. 

      Hakim died of cancer in 1997 at the age of 65. His daughters now run the book shop, which is still in its same location at 210 S 52nd Street in Philadelphia. 


      Ben's Chili Bowl

      Ben's Chili Bowl in 1958.© Provided by Work + Money

      Year founded: 1958

      Location: Washington, D.C.

      Type of business: Restaurant

      Bottom line: Ben Ali and Virginia Rollins opened Ben's Chili Bowl inside the building of an old silent movie house on U Street in Washington, D.C., in 1958.

      The restaurant stayed open through tumultuous times, from the 1968 riots (where it obtained a permit to remain open past curfew and fed both rioters and police officers) to the mid-1970s and 1980s, where drug use on the streets was so rampant that only one employee remained.

      Ben died in 2009, but Virginia, almost 90, still stops by the restaurant every day. Her sons own the business, and it's a D.C. landmark. 


      Willie Mae's Scotch House

      Willie Mae's Scotch House in New Orleans.© Provided by Work + Money

      Year founded: 1957

      Location: New Orleans, Louisiana

      Type of business: Restaurant

      Bottom line: Willie Mae's has been serving up some of the best fried chicken in the world since 1957. Founder Willie Mae Seaton arrived in New Orleans during World War II, working as a taxi driver, beautician and at a dry cleaners for years while her husband worked at the Higgins Shipyard. In 1957, she founded Willie Mae's Scotch House, which included a small kitchen. 

      Seaton's fried chicken was good enough to make it a neighborhood favorite, and she wanted to keep it that way. In 1999, she would not allow the Times-Picayune to publish the restaurant's address, nor her photo in the paper. It wasn't until after Hurricane Katrina that Seaton became more receptive to attention, and Willie Mae's became world-famous for fried chicken. 

      Seaton died in 2015 at the age of 99. Today, Willie Mae's is run by her granddaughter, Kerry Seaton Stewart. 

      StylesVille Beauty and Barber Shop

      StylesVille storefront in Pacoima, California.© Provided by Work + Money

      Year founded: 1957

      Location: Pacoima, California

      Type of business: Barbershop and beauty salon

      Bottom line: Founded in a time of heavy segregation by Freddie Carter, StylesVille Barber Shop and Beauty Salon has always been a stronghold of a strong community. Freddie managed the barber side, and his wife, Ollie, ran the beauty salon next door.

      n the 1970s, Freddie purchased the Dew Drop Inn (a juke joint that once hosted Chuck Berry) across the street and moved the business, but the barbershop has always been family-run. 

      Today run by Carter's grandson, Greg Carter Faucett, StylesVille is still the place to kick back and be yourself. "A barbershop: no restrictions," Faucett told the Los Angeles Daily News. "All dudes. You can say anything … everything. But when the kids come in, we tone it down. When the ladies come in … it’s a family affair."

      H.J. Russell and Company

      H.J. Russell and Company was founded by Herman J. Russell, left, in 1952 and became one of the largest builders of HUD homes.© Provided by Work + Money

      Year founded: 1952

      Location: Atlanta, Georgia

      Type of business: Construction

      Bottom line: H.J. Russell and Company was founded by Herman J. Russell. His father owned a plastering business and taught Russell building and handyman skills.

      While he was a young man, he saved up enough to purchase a lot of land and built a duplex on it, using it as rental income and making enough of it to pay for his college at Tuskegee University. 

      He earned a degree in construction from Tuskegee University in 1952 and founded H.J. Russell Plastering Company. It became H.J. Russell and Company, going from building affordable HUD homes in the 1960s to developing a $300 million mixed-use development along with hotels, lofts and restaurants in Atlanta. 


      Andrew Skip Carter, the founder of KPRS.© Provided by Work + Money

      Year founded: 1950

      Location: Kansas City, Missouri 

      Type of business: Media

      Bottom line: KPRS is "the first African-American owned radio station west of the Mississippi in Kansas City," according to its website. The station was founded by Andrew Skip Carter, who earned his engineering license from the FCC in 1947 but struggled to find a place for his dream radio station — one that played Black music by Black artists— because of his skin color.  

      Carter wrote a letter to the FCC condemning the racism he experienced in the radio industry. That letter was read by the former governor of Kansas, Alf Landon, who owned several radio stations. Landon helped Carter receive his FCC license and gave him a transmitter to start KPRS.

       In 1969, Carter and his family gained ownership over the station, and it is now the oldest Black-owned radio station in the country. 

      Rodgers Travel

      The early days of Rodgers Travel.© Provided by Work + Money

      Year founded: 1949

      Location: Wayne, Pennsylvania

      Type of business: Travel agency

      Bottom line: Rodgers Travel is the oldest Black-owned travel agency in the United States. It began as a small family travel agency and has expanded into an onsite and virtual agency that services both businesses and government agencies.

      Harold Rogers, then a medical student in 1949, worked as a porter for TWA at Philadelphia International Airport, which gave him the experience and industry know-how to open up Rogers Travel Bureau that same year.

      As one of the only Black-owned travel agencies, it had a large pool of Black customers which white-owned travel agencies had difficulty accommodating (if they did so to begin with) during that time period. The rest is history.

      Carver Federal Savings Bank

      Carver Bank ribbon-cutting event, circa 1975.© Provided by Work + Money

      Year founded: 1948

      Location: Harlem, New York City

      Type of business: Bank

      Bottom line: Carver Federal Savings Bank is one of the largest Black-operated banks in the United States, with total assets of about $581.7 million.  

      Named after George Washington Carver, Carver Federal Savings Bank began in 1948, founded by local Harlem business owners because the big banks weren't lending money to those living in Harlem. And it would have opened sooner, but the state of New York blocked the founders' attempts to open the bank. They had to sue the state in Washington D.C. for federal approval. 

      One of the bank's main missions is giving back, and it invests 83 cents of every dollar deposited back into the local community. 

      Busy Bee Cafe

      Lucy Jackson, center, owned the Busy Bee Cafe from 1947 until the 1980s.© Provided by Work + Money

      Year founded: 1947

      Location: Atlanta, Georgia

      Type of business: Restaurant

      Bottom line: Lucy Jackson decided to open up a restaurant in Atlanta but needed a name. During a trip to California in the 1940s, she spotted a sign with a moving bee and took it as a sign of what to name her shop.

      The Busy Bee has the best fried chicken in Atlanta, according to Atlanta Magazine. The restaurant is a landmark of the city and has been frequented by numerous celebrities and politicians.


      Bronner Brothers

      The Bronner Brothers in the 1960s or 1970s.© Provided by Work + Money

      Year founded: 1947

      Location: Atlanta, Georgia

      Type of business: Beauty products

      Bottom line: Today, Bronner Brothers is one of the largest Black-owned beauty products company in the United States. But they started small.

      The company was formed in 1947 by Dr. Nathaniel H. Bronner Sr. and his brother, Arthur E. Bronner. The brothers, along with their sister Emma, taught cosmetologists at a YMCA in Atlanta.

      This grew into a convention, which swelled in attendees. The International Beauty Show is a massive success, including featured speakers such as Beyonce, and is attended by over 40,000 people twice a year. 


      Gates B-B-Q

      Gates Bar-B-Q, then Gates Ol' Kentucky, in 1946.© Provided by Work + Money

      Year founded: 1946

      Location: Kansas City, Missouri

      Type of business: Restaurant

      Bottom line: Gates B-B-Q began as Gates Ol' Kentucky in 1946. It was founded by George W. Gates, who scratched up enough money to open up a shop rather than having to work on the railroad.

      The business has stayed in the Gates family for several generations, and the Gates have been so successful that they were able to open up a number of other locations in Kansas City and the surrounding area.

      In 1984, the Gates family opened the Gates Commissary, which manufactures and sells their own sauces and spices


      The Four Way Restaurant

      Willie Earl Bates.© Provided by Work + Money

      Year founded: 1946

      Location: Memphis, Tennessee

      Type of business: Restaurant

      Bottom line: One of the oldest restaurants in Memphis, Tennessee, has been owned by African-Americans since it first was opened in 1946. Started by Irene Cleaves and her husband, Clint, the Four Way Restaurant (originally called The Four Way Grill) is a soul food joint in the neighborhood of Soulsville near downtown.

      During segregation it was "a safe haven," current co-owner Patrice Bates Thompson told Saveur. "It was pretty much the only place like that to come during segregation. Mrs. Cleaves opened her restaurant to everyone. It was so popular other races would often come to eat here too." Willie Earl Bates, Thompson's father, took over the restaurant in 2002 after the Cleaves died and ran it until he died in 2016.

      The business keeps growing, and the restaurant, which still is in its original building, remains a Memphis institution that once served as a meeting place for civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King and Jesse Jackson. Music legends like Elvis Presley and Aretha Franklin ate here as well.



      Kent Mason, owner of Arnette's in Carbondale, Illinois.© Provided by Work + Money

      Year founded: 1945

      Location: Carbondale, Illinois

      Type of business: Barbershop

      Bottom line: Founded by Charles Arnette, Arnette's has been open for 75 years. It's now owned by Kent Mason.

      Charles was a father figure to Mason, and Mason purchased the barbershop from Arnette's widow after he died for $15,000. 

      Mason, now in his 70s, mentors young would-be barbers just like Charles used to do. He even cuts some patrons' hair for free if they can't afford it. 


      Ebony magazine from February 1970.© Provided by Work + Money

      Year founded: 1945

      Location: Chicago, Illinois

      Type of business: Lifestyle magazine

      Bottom line: In 1942 at 24 years old, John Harold Johnson published Negro Digest — a magazine that was like "Readers Digest" for Black people — while working for a life insurance company in Chicago. It sold 3,000 copies during its first run, and within a year, it had a monthly circulation of 50,000.

      Seeing this success, Johnson founded Ebony, a Black lifestyle magazine, in 1945. It became wildly popular, its content shifting with the times, from its initial purpose of looking at "the zesty side of life" to more political and controversial topics during the 1960s. 

      Like many magazines in the digital age, Ebony has shifted from printed form to online magazine. But hundreds of Ebony magazines from the 1950s through the 2000s have been scanned and are available for free on Google Books. Which is cool.


      Brenda's Bar-Be-Que Pit

      Brenda's Bar-Be-Que Pit in Montgomery, Alabama.© Provided by Work + Money

      Year founded: 1942

      Location: Montgomery, Alabama

      Type of business: Restaurant

      Bottom line: Brenda's Bar-Be-Que Pit is the oldest barbecue restaurant in Montgomery, Alabama. It's a tiny brick, one-one room shop with a takeout window on Mobile Road that has been owned and operated by the Bethune family for 78 years. 

      When it opened, Brenda's was the secret meeting place for the local NAACP, where volunteers taught Black people how to read and write so they could pass Alabama's discriminatory poll tests


      Lannie's Bar-B-Q Spot

      Year founded: 1942

      Location: Selma, Alabama

      Type of business: Restaurant

      Bottom line: Starting as a dirt-floored restaurant in 1942, Lannie's Bar-B-Q spot in Selma has been open for more than 80 years. Founder Lannie Moore Travis opened the shop in 1942. He died in 1994, and now his daughter, Lula, owns the restaurant.

      Lula has worked at the family business her entire life. At 12 years old, she was tasked with bringing live hogs from the stockyard to the restaurant on her bicycle.

      And the barbecue is good — Lula won the Alabama Barbecue Battle of 2015.


      Dooky Chase's Restaurant

      Leah Chase helped make Dooky Chase famous worldwide.© Provided by Work + Money

      Year founded: 1941

      Location: New Orleans, Louisiana

      Type of business: Restaurant

      Bottom line: Dooky Chase's is one of the most famous restaurants in New Orleans, renowned for its Creole cuisine and its late owner, Leah Lange Chase. The restaurant was founded by Emily and Dooky Chase Sr. as a bar and sandwich shop in the Treme.

      But it was more than just a sandwich shop. Since there were no Black banks in New Orleans, the bar had enough money to loan out money to their trusted customers, along with po' boys and drinks. 

      In 1946, Edgar Dooky Chase Jr. married Leah Lange Chase, who later was nicknamed the "Queen of Creole Cooking." Leah transformed the restaurant into a fine dining restaurant and made Dooky Chase famous worldwide. She worked at the restaurant until her death in 2019 at the age of 96.

      Dooky Chase's Restaurant is still operated and run by the Chase family. And it's still good. 


      The Omaha Star

      The Omaha Star building.© Provided by Work + Money

      Year founded: 1938

      Location: Omaha, Nebraska

      Type of business: Newspaper

      Bottom line: The Omaha Star is the nation's first Black female-founded and run newspaper.

      Under the banner "Joy and Happiness," The Omaha Star has focused on bringing positive, progressive news to the African-American community in Ohama since it was founded by Mildred Brown. Her reporting on the civil rights movement earned praise from President Lyndon Johnson. 

      Today, the newspaper is distributed to 48 states and has never missed a single issue. 


      Chicken Shack

      Chicken Shack in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.© Provided by Work + Money

      Year founded: 1935

      Location: Baton Rouge, Louisiana

      Type of business: Restaurant

      Bottom line: Chicken Shack started as an ice cream shop in 1935. But founder Tommy Delpit, possibly seeing more profits by frying chicken than slinging scoops, switched business plans and created Chicken Shack two years later.

      Not long after that, Joe Delpit, Chicken Shack's current owner, was born in the kitchen of the original store (on East Boulevard in Baton Rouge). Joe grew up working for the restaurant and lied about his age to get a driver's license so he could deliver chicken all over town. He took over the business at 18 and later became the first Black person to sit on Baton Rouge's city council in 1968, where he remained in office for 16 years.

      Today, Chicken Shack is a mini-franchise, with three locations in Baton Rouge. Joe, now in his 80s, doesn't do too much of the legwork in running his business. His family and loved ones have taken the lead. 


      Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

      Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder in 1958.© Provided by Work + Money

      Year founded: 1934

      Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota

      Type of business: Newspaper

      Bottom line: The Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder is the oldest Black family-owned business in Minnesota. 

      The newspaper was launched by Cecil E. Newman in 1934, then as two separate papers: the Minneapolis Spokesman and the St. Paul Recorder (they were merged and given the current name in 2007). Even though it was the Great Depression era, Newman found success, and the papers found an audience of over 7,000 people — nearly half of the Twin Cities population of 15,000 Black men and women. 

      The Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder is known for its photographer Gordon Parks, who took exceptional photographs of civil rights leaders, prominent people and regular citizens. The Library of Congress has over 1,600 of his photographs.


      Los Angeles Sentinel

      The Los Angeles Sentinel logo.© Provided by Work + Money

      Year founded: 1933

      Location: Los Angeles, California

      Type of business: Newspaper

      Bottom line: Leon Washington Jr. founded the Los Angeles Sentinel when he was 26 years old.

      The newspaper gained national attention with its 1933 "Don't Spend Where You Can't Work Campaign," which urged Black residents to boycott any store that would not employ Black workers. Washington became the first Black man to serve on the board of directors of the California Newspaper Publishers Association.

      The Los Angeles Sentinel is the longest-running and largest Black-owned newspaper in the West. Today, New Orleans-born Danny Bakewell owns the paper, which is now on the App Store


      Atlanta Daily World

      William Alexander Scott II, founder of the Atlanta Daily World.© Provided by Work + Money

      Year founded: 1928

      Location: Atlanta, Georgia

      Type of business: Newspaper

      Bottom line: The Atlanta Daily World is one of the oldest Black newspapers in the country. William Alexander Scott II founded this paper by himself at the age of 26. The Daily World covered everything about Black culture and business that was never reported on in white-owned papers and slowly grew, until it became a chain of Black newspapers by the early 1930s. 

      Alexander was murdered in 1934 — no one knows who committed the crime — and his brother, Cornelius Adolphus Scott, took over. During the 1960s, Cornelius took a neutral position on civil rights and did not advocate for sit-ins. As such, the paper didn't scare off white advertisers and attracted brands like Sears and Coca-Cola, according to the company's website

      The Daily World is now digital-only and is owned by Real Times Media LLC, which owns and publishes the Chicago Defender. 


      Parker House Sausage Company

      The Parker House Sausage Company headquarters in Chicago.© Provided by Work + Money

      Year founded: 1926

      Location: Chicago, Illinois

      Type of business: Sausage

      Bottom line: The Parker House Sausage Company is one of the oldest Black-owned, continually operating family businesses in the country. It started small, with Judge H. Parker, who moved from Tennessee to Chicago selling sausage links from a horse and carriage in 1919. 

      In 1921, Parker bought a plant and some refrigerated trucks, and in 1926, he bought a new headquarters on S. State Street in Chicago. It's the same place where Parker House Sausage Company is headquartered today.

      The business sells several different kinds of sausages, along with souse and headcheese that can be found at big box stores like Sam's Club and Walmart.


      Louisiana Weekly

      The Louisiana Weekly logo© Provided by Work + Money

      Year founded: 1925

      Location: New Orleans

      Type of business: Newspaper

      Bottom line: Founded by Orlando Capitola Ward Taylor and Constant C. Dejoie Sr., Louisiana Weekly started publication during a particularly turbulent — and often violent — time in the nation for people of color.

      Being one of the few publications reporting on issues impacting the African-American community, and with affordable subscription costs ($0.05 per issue), Louisiana Weekly had 4,500 subscribers within one month of launch. 

      Over the decades, Louisiana Weekly has served as one of the few credible resources for the Black community in the South, covering everything from court cases like Brown v. Board of Education to Hurricane Katrina's impact on the community. 


      Citizens Trust Bank

      Citizens Trust Bank in Atlanta.© Provided by Work + Money

      Year founded: 1921

      Location: Atlanta, Georgia

      Type of business: Bank

      Bottom line: In the late 1910s, Heman Perry went into a shop to be fitted for a pair of socks and was refused because he was Black. This led to him and four other Black men, known as the "fervent five," to form a bank so Black people could find financing for their own shops. 

      In 1921, the fervent five opened Citizens Trust Bank with $500,000 in capital stock. In 1948, Citizens Trust bank was the first black-owned bank to join the Federal Reserve Bank.

      Today, it owns $429 million in assets. 


      JP Holley Funeral Home

      A horse-drawn hearse at the JP Holley Funeral Home.© Provided by Work + Money

      Year founded: 1917

      Location: Columbia, South Carolina

      Type of business: Burial services

      Bottom line: JP Holley Funeral Home has been serving the Richland County area of South Carolina for over 100 years, ever since William S. and Katherine W. Holley founded the business in 1917.

      It has been operated by the Holley family for four generations.


      J. W. Woodward Funeral Home

      The J. W. Woodward Funeral Home in Spartanburg, South Carolina.© Provided by Work + Money

      Year founded: 1916

      Location: Spartanburg, South Carolina 

      Type of business: Burial services

      Bottom line: The J.W. Woodward Funeral Home is one of the oldest Black-owned funeral homes in America.

      It dates back to 1916, when the owner of a mortuary in Spartanburg suggested to John Woodward that he should organize a mortuary for Black people. For several generations, the Woodward family has owned and operated this funeral home.

      The current owner is Kay Woodward, John Woodward's granddaughter. 


      R.S. Lewis and Sons Funeral Home

      R.S. Lewis and Sons Funeral Home in Memphis.© Provided by Work + Money

      Year founded: 1914

      Location: Memphis, Tennessee

      Type of business: Burial services

      Bottom line: R.S. Lewis and Sons Funeral Home has been operating since 1914. The funeral home is part of a special, and tragic, piece of American and civil rights history. 

      During his final visit to Memphis, Martin Luther King's security detail came from this funeral home. It was the place that provided King with a limo whenever he visited the city (it was common for civil rights leaders of that time to receive anonymous transportation from Black funeral homes, according to author Suzanne Smith).

      The man who drove him that fateful day on April 4, 1968, was Solomon Jones, who was one of the last people to speak to King and was an eyewitness to the assassination. Jones leaped from the limo and gave chase to the murderers, of course to no avail. 

      R.S. Lewis and Sons prepared King's body for the memorial service, working 13 hours overnight to repair the slain civil right's leader's fatal wounds. 


      Patillo's Bar-B-Q

      Jack and Roxie Patillo in 1915.© Provided by Work + Money

      Year founded: 1912

      Location: Beaumont, Texas

      Type of business: Restaurant

      Bottom line: Patillo's Bar-B-Q was founded in 1912 by Jackson "Jack" Patillo, who became well-known for his Cajun-Creole-inspired barbecue.

      The restaurant has moved locations over the past 118 years, but the joint has stayed within the family and is now run by Jack's great-grandson, Robert Patillo. The current building has housed the restaurant since 1981. 

      The most popular item is the beef links, which are made from scratch with hand-ground brisket and shoulder clod, mixed with garlic, chili powder, several other spices, and smoked in a beef casing. 


      Jones Bar-B-Q Diner

      Jones Bar-B-Q Diner opened in 1910.© Provided by Work + Money

      Year founded: 1910

      Location: Marianna, Arkansas

      Type of business: Restaurant

      Bottom line: Jones Bar-B-Q Diner is considered to be the oldest Black-owned restaurant in the country. It's also one of the nation's most fascinating and enduring restaurants. 

      Jones Bar-B-Q started in 1910. Meat was sold from a washtub for over 50 years, until the owners moved the business into a shotgun home in 1964. The restaurant is located in Marianna, Arkansas, a town of 3,800 people with a median income of just $18,700. 

      The first floor of the house is the diner, with seating for 10. The barbecue pork — the only thing served alongside Wonder Bread and coleslaw —is slow-cooked over oak and hickory wood for at least 10 hours. A special barbecue sauce completes the cuisine. Orders are taken from an open window.

      The diner opens at 7 a.m. and remains open until all the meat is sold, which usually occurs in the afternoon. The diner received national attention in 2012, when it was awarded a James Beard award. Since then, many magazines and travel shows have stopped by the joint to take a look at an awesome piece of American history and chow down on delicious barbecue. 


      Davis Brothers Construction Company, Inc.

      The Greater Richmond Convention Center, which the Davis Brothers built.© Provided by Work + Money

      Year founded: 1908

      Location: Richmond, Virginia

      Type of business: Construction

      Bottom line: Davis Brothers Construction Company is one of the oldest Black-owned construction companies in the United States.

      The company was founded in 1908 by Thornton Davis, who carried the company through World War I and the Great Depression.

      Homes made by Thorton and his company still stand in Richmond's West end and North Side neighborhoods, according to the company


      Mechanics and Farmers Bank

      Mechanics and Farmers Bank has been in business since 1907.© Provided by Work + Money

      Year founded: 1907

      Location: Durham, North Carolina

      Type of business: Bank

      Bottom line: Entrepreneur John Merrick, a former slave, founded Mechanics and Farmers Bank after establishing another long-running, minority-owned company that still stands today: NC Mutual (more on that later).

      In 1907, Merrick and six other men — R. B. Fitzgerald, J. A. Dodson, J. R. Hawkins, Aaron M. Moore, W.G. Pearson, James E. Shepard, G. W. Stephens, and Stanford L. Warren — established this bank on "Black Wall Street," a four-block district of Black-owned businesses in Durham that thrived during the Jim Crow-era. 

      Today, the bank has $262.5 million in total assets as of June 2019. 


      McKissack & McKissack

      Moses III and Calvin McKissack.© Provided by Work + Money

      Year founded: 1905

      Location: New York City 

      Type of business: Architecture

      Bottom line: McKissack & McKissack dates back to 1905, when Moses McKissack III and his brother, Calvin — both grandsons of a slave —  opened an architecture firm in Nashville, Tennessee. 

      McKissack & McKissack broke records in 1942, when the U.S. government awarded it a $5.7 million contract (about $90 million today) to build the 99th Pursuit Squadron Airbase in Tuskegee, Alabama, the largest federal contract ever given to a Black-owned company at the time. 

      Today, McKissack & McKissack is headquartered in New York City and has offices in several cities, including Memphis, Philadelphia, Birmingham, Alabama, and Bridgeport, Connecticut. 


      Atlanta Life Insurance Company

      Atlanta Life Insurance Company in the 1900s.© Provided by Work + Money

      Year founded: 1905

      Location: Atlanta, Georgia

      Type of business: Life insurance

      Bottom line: Alonzo Herndon, the founder of Atlanta Life Insurance Company, was born into slavery in Walton County, Georgia, in 1858 and freed after the Civil War. He took up odd jobs as a young child to earn money while his family worked as sharecroppers in Social Circle, about 45 miles east of Atlanta.

      At the age of 20, he set out on his own with $11 in his pocket, working as a farmhand and learning barbering. He opened his first barbershop in Jonesboro, Georgia, then moved to Atlanta in 1882 and opened three upscale barbershops in the city. 

      As he accumulated wealth, he purchased real estate, becoming the wealthiest Black man in Atlanta. In 1905, Herndon purchased a burial association for $140 and two other insurance companies, which he then merged into Atlanta Life Insurance Company. Herndon became the first Black millionaire in Atlanta and one of the first Black millionaires in the entire country. 

      Atlanta Life Insurance was a key financial institution during the Jim Crow and pre-Civil Rights era, offering low-cost insurance to Black Americans.


      Chicago Defender

      Linotype operators of the Chicago Defender in 1941.© Provided by Work + Money

      Year founded: 1905

      Location: Chicago, Illinois

      Type of business: Newspaper

      Bottom line: Robert Sengstacke Abbot founded the Chicago Defender at the age of 34. Born to freedman parents in Georgia in 1870, Abbot moved to Chicago and then earned a law degree from the Chicago-Kent College of Law in 1898. 

      In 1905, Abbot started the Chicago Defender in a kitchen in his landlord's apartment with an "an initial investment of 25 cents and a press run of 300 copies." Within five years, it was the most popular Black weekly newspaper in the country, attracting an audience beyond Chicago. It published editorials promoting a better life in Chicago and the North, and between 1916 and 1918, the city's Black population almost tripled. 

      Today, the Chicago Defender is owned by Real Times Media, a company headed by Hiram E. Jackson that also owns other Black newspapers throughout the country. It is now digital-only. 


      The New Journal and Guide

      The New Journal and Guide logo.© Provided by Work + Money

      Year founded: 1900

      Location: Norfolk, Virginia

      Type of business: Newspaper

      Bottom line: The New Journal and Guide was founded by the Supreme Lodge Knights of Gideon, a Black fraternal order that helped former slaves transition into the life of a freedman.

      Ten years later, it was purchased for $3,000 — in the ballpark of $78,000 today — by P.B. Young Sr., the son of a former slave. He grew the paper into the biggest Black newspaper in the South, according to Inside Business

      Today, the paper is under owner and publisher Brenda Andrews and exists in both print and digital form. 


      Davenport and Harris Funeral Home

      The Harris family in 1920.© Provided by Work + Money

      Year founded: 1899

      Location: Birmingham, Alabama

      Type of business: Burial services

      Bottom line: Davenport and Harris Funeral Home is the oldest Black-owned, continually operated business in the entire state of Alabama.

      It all started when Mobile-born Charles Morgan Harris opened a general store in Birmingham in 1893. It sold bread on one side of the store and caskets on the other.  By the end of the century, the general store turned into a funeral home, and he founded Davenport and Harris Funeral home with his sister, Hattie C. Davenport. The company has been in business ever since.

      Marion P. Sterling, a fifth-generation Harris, currently runs the operation. 


      NC Mutual

      The early NC Mutual staff.© Provided by Work + Money

      Year founded: 1898

      Location: Durham, North Carolina

      Type of business: Life insurance

      Bottom line: NC Mutual is the oldest Black-owned life insurance company and one of the nation's oldest Black-owned businesses period.

      NC Mutual was founded by entrepreneur John C. Merrick, who was born into slavery in 1859. Freed after the Civil War, he found work as a bricklayer in Raleigh, North Carolina, and then as a barber. He moved to Durham and opened up several barbershops there and cultivated both wealth and connections within the richer white community. 

      Merrick procured a loan from Washington Duke, a wealthy tobacco industrialist, and started the North Carolina Mutual and Provident Association — now known as simply NC Mutual. It was a pillar on Durham's Black Wall Street.


      The Indianapolis Recorder

      The front page of the Indianapolis Recorder on April 24, 1965.© Provided by Work + Money

      Year founded: 1895

      Location: Indianapolis, Indiana

      Type of business: Newspaper

      Bottom line: The Indianapolis Recorder began as a two-page church bulletin that slowly grew, expanding from just local happenings and church events to larger issues, like World War II and desegregation.

      Several famous journalists wrote from the paper, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning Journalist William Raspberry. The Recorder has a circulation of about 100,000 today after William G. Mays, an Indiana chemical company owner and successful businessman, purchased the paper in 1990 when readership was down to 10,000 and helped preserved the paper's legacy.

      Mays died in 2014, but the paper continues to support and empower African-Americans.


      W.H. Jefferson Funeral Home

      W.H. Jefferson Funeral Home was founded in 1894.© Provided by Work + Money

      Year founded: 1894

      Location: Vicksburg, Mississippi

      Type of business: Burial services

      Bottom line: The W.H. Jefferson Funeral Home is the oldest Black-owned funeral home in Mississippi and perhaps the oldest in the country.

      It has remained in the Jefferson family for over 125 years. When it opened in 1894, it was at "the center of the African-American community in Vicksburg," according to the Clarion-Ledger. 


      The Afro

      The front page of the Afro-American from January 4, 1902.© Provided by Work + Money

      Year founded: 1892

      Location: Baltimore, Maryland 

      Type of business: Newspaper

      Bottom line: The Baltimore Afro-American, now better known as The Afro, was started in 1892 by John Henry Murphy Sr., a former slave who found freedom after the Emancipation Proclamation.

      Murphy Sr. merged several church publications into one and grew the paper from a single sheet into a widely read paper that was integral to the Baltimore community. Famous intellectuals such as William Hughes and J. Saunders Redding have written for the paper. 

      After Murphy Sr. died in 1922, his sons took the reins, and the paper has remained in familial hands ever since. As such, it is the oldest, family-owned Black newspaper in the country. Archives of the Afro can be found via Google News


      The Philadelphia Tribune

      The Philadelphia Tribune building in Philadelphia.© Provided by Work + Money

      Year founded: 1884

      Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

      Type of business: Newspaper

      Bottom line: Founded in 1884, the Philadelphia Tribune is the oldest Black-owned newspaper still running. 

      Baltimore, Maryland-born Christopher J. Perry started the paper, publishing the first issue all by himself in a rented room. He was 28 years old and performed practically every job, from reporter to sales rep. Within 14 years, the Tribune was a success and gained the praise of W.E.B. DuBois. 

      Today, the Tribune has a circulation of nearly 220,000 and a readership of 600,000. 


      E.E. Ward Moving and Storage

      E.E. Ward Moving and Storage is the oldest Black-owned business in the country.© Provided by Work + Money

      Year founded: 1881

      Location: Columbus, Ohio

      Type of business: Transportation

      Bottom line: E.E. Ward Moving and Storage is the oldest Black-owned business in America.

      John T. Ward of Columbus, Ohio, worked for several years as a conductor on the underground railroad. In 1881, along with his son, William, he founded E.E. Ward Moving and Storage. They had just two horses and a wagon — the same kind of transportation John had used to transport runaway slaves — and they made their business so successful that by the 1920s, they had cars and were transporting nearly 900,000 pianos for Steinway.

      Today, the company has a fleet of trucks and is a major business in Columbus. 

      In : #EssexCounty 

      Tags: oldest  black-owned businesses  in  america  entrepreneurs  women owned business  black america  shark tank  black enterprise 
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