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Summary

The astonishing untold history of America's first black millionaires - former slaves who endured incredible challenges to amass and maintain their wealth for a century, from the Jacksonian period to the Roaring '20s - self-made entrepreneurs whose unknown success mirrored that of American business heroes such as Henry Ford, John D. Rockefeller, and Thomas Edison.

While Oprah Winfrey, Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Michael Jordan, and Will Smith are among the estimated 35,000 black millionaires in the nation today, these famous celebrities were not the first blacks to reach the storied 1 percent. Between the years of 1830 and 1927, as the last generation of blacks born into slavery were reaching maturity, a small group of smart, tenacious, and daring men and women broke new ground to attain the highest levels of financial success.

Black Fortunes is an intriguing look at these remarkable individuals, including Napoleon Bonaparte Drew - author Shomari Wills' great-great-great-grandfather - the first black man in Powhatan County (contemporary Richmond) to own property in post-Civil War Virginia. His achievements were matched by five other unknown black entrepreneurs including:

  • Mary Ellen Pleasant, who used her Gold Rush wealth to further the cause of abolitionist John Brown
  • Robert Reed Church, who became the largest landowner in Tennessee
  • Hannah Elias, the mistress of a New York City millionaire, who used the land her lover gave her to build an empire in Harlem
  • Orphan and self-taught chemist Annie Turnbo-Malone, who developed the first national brand of hair care products
  • Madam C. J Walker, Turnbo-Malone's employee who would earn the nickname America's "first female black millionaire"
  • Mississippi school teacher O. W. Gurley, who developed a piece of Tulsa, Oklahoma, into a "town" for wealthy black professionals and craftsmen that would become known as "the Black Wall Street"

A fresh, little-known chapter in the nation's story - a blend of Hidden Figures, Titan, and The Tycoons - Black Fortunes illuminates the birth of the black business titan and the emergence of the black marketplace in America as never before.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.
©2018 Shomari Wills (P)2018 HarperCollins Publishers

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  • Overall
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    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent!

Loved it! By turns, enlightening, inspirational and distressing but still sounding a note of optimism.

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  • Brazy Brazy
  • 25-06-18

True His/Herstory

I loved the stories. It had confirmed the story of Robert Church, from a previous book I read. the narrator is fitting, not over barring or dull while narrating the story. Not being bias, but as a black male I feel black history is American history.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Monique
  • 15-03-18

Great Read! True Nuggets of Black Entrepreneurship

Liked the history and multiple number of success and full entrepreneurial journeys of these Black Americans. You will be forever changed with this read.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Femi Amazon
  • 08-03-18

Great story! Flowed perfectly

Great storytelling, phenomal flow/writing style and learned something! Absolutely recommend this book and it should be required reading for any African American lit class.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • Dexx
  • 17-08-18

<br />

such an uplifting and amazing ride along in the story telling, I'll continue to share with as many folks as possible

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  • James Henderson
  • 14-08-18

phenomenal stories

These stories full of cautionary tails and business development insights and methods still utilized in businesses today will no doubt inspire future young black entrepreneurs both men and women to achieve their wildest dreams in spite of the certain backlash and obstacles they will encounter. Hopefully we will see these stories on the silver screen in the near future. American history needs to be seen by the masses with the excellence and block buster backing of movies like Black Panther and Coming To America.

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  • edith
  • 12-08-18

Must read

Black fortune is a wonderful book that has so much knowledge the book was so good that I am going to buy a hardcopy. Black fortune taught me so many things that I didn’t know about black people the history in this book is outstanding I’d recommend that everyone read this book the performance in the book was outstanding and the story it’s self was wonderful.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 11-08-18

Inspirational

Incredible. Is the only way to describe the history you will hear and the caliber of people you will get to know. Loved it!

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  • LT
  • 10-08-18

Enjoyed listening and learning

Enlightening book. Interesting teaching of black history. Narrator was good, was easy to stay engaged. Would definitely listen to other books by this author and/ or narrator.

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  • Sala' McDaniel
  • 09-08-18

Truly inspiring!

This book should be in every African-American home. I had absolutely no clue about these success stories. I had heard about Madame CJ Walker and of course Booker T. Washington but the others I didn’t know about nor did I know the detail of their struggle and success. Spread the word!

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  • Mary
  • 06-08-18

Entertaining and Educational

I found this book to be both heart breaking, at times, and inspiring. The story format in which the author chose to tell these stories kept me listening and wanting more. The stories of some of America's first African-American millionaires highlights the courage of people who didn't let adversity stop them from following their dreams even when adversity was life-threatening, and the very cultural system wherein they lived saw them as an inferior. I reccomend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about Americans who rose out of slavery and managed to accumulate wealth, status and a legacy as some of America's first African-Americsn millionaires.