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Black Fortunes

The Story of the First Six African Americans Who Escaped Slavery and Became Millionaires
Narrated by: Ron Butler
Length: 6 hrs and 51 mins
Categories: History, American
5 out of 5 stars (14 ratings)

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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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Black Excellence

An eye opener to how some of the most ambitious black entrepreneurs overcame the unrivalled adversity of post-slavery America.

1 person found this helpful

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Excellent!

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

1 person found this helpful

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Black Fortunes

This book is well written, well informed and well narrated. I fully enjoyed listening to it and the voice of the narrator. I knew the names but not the stories of those men and women leading the black wealth journey. From this book I learnt much about American history, the economics, the race issue and the truth about the Tulsa Riots!

I highly recommend to all and definitely feel that all teenagers should hear this important books words. Now that I have finished I will have my son (teenager) hear it.

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Should be turned into a TV show!

I really enjoyed Black Fortunes, so much so that I’m going to also get a physical copy for my library.

It an amazing narrative really giving a fresh take on that period of American history. It demonstrates the often brilliance of the black people of the time, while also drilling home the fact that despite their riches, when it came to it, they were still often seen as second class citizens.

The way that it’s been written really made me think about the way society is set up in 2019 and it was saddened me that some of the issues touched on in regards to race relations, self hate and the down playing of black women are still very much part of the world we live in.

I’d definitely recommend the book to anyone who has an interest in black/American history, the slave era and even enterprise and entrepreneurship.

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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.

20 people found this helpful

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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.

18 people found this helpful

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  • Dante
  • 30-01-19

Discouraging yet Encouraging! Oxymoron - I know...

Discouraging yet encouraging! I know it’s an oxymoron, yet that is how I felt as I listened to this book. As an entrepreneur who happens to be a black man I found it insightful, yet painful as I experienced a rollercoaster of emotions throughout.

It was discouraging to see how these entrepreneurs and titans were terrorized and systematically robbed of their fortunes because of skin color.

Yet, it was encouraging to see how they overcame unspeakable odds to become successful.

It forced me to recognize how comparatively easy it is for industrious African Americans to find and seize opportunities to grow wealth today and has strengthened my resolve to persist, come what may. It also impressed upon me the importance of putting mechanisms in place to protect wealth and legacy for the next generation.

Kudos to the author for painstakingly researching, restoring and making known this important piece of African American history!

The account of these brave men and women should be added to all American History text books and be required reading for students in the public school system.





8 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 23-10-18

Well written and narrated

Not your typical historically focused book. Written in more of a story-type format, I was engaged from the beginning and the energetic flow of the book kept me listening and thinking about the book even when I wasn’t listening. Highly recommend this for readers/listeners that enjoy historical and inspirational books.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Roderick O Wynn
  • 21-10-18

Must listen, revealing look at early Black wealth

Very informative, and well performed. Explains the struggle, success, and tragedy of early Black wealth.

5 people found this helpful

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  • T
  • 02-10-18

Inspirational

A lot of these stories go untold. It is refreshing and educational to learn of the stories that are ignored by conventional academia. Well researched!

4 people found this helpful

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  • Femi F.
  • 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.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Andrea
  • 14-10-18

AMAZING

This was an AMAZING book. You have sparked my curiosity even further about our journey here in the United States and what we are capable of doing. You also gave me a reminder by telling this story that we have work to do and the job is not yet done. Thank you for writing this book.

3 people found this helpful

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  • tenACEous
  • 05-09-18

A MUST READ FOR ALL BLACK CHILDREN

This book belongs in schools. Since we know that's not happening, please make sure your children read this phenomenal retelling of millionaires who transcended EVERYTHING. It's also important to remind this generation about the negative connotation associated with "pulling yourself up by your bootstraps". Blacks have done this throughout history, only to have the fruits of their labor stolen or destroyed. This piece is so important.

6 people found this helpful

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  • Carlos Brown
  • 23-09-18

Untold Stories that will Inspire

This book provides an excellent glimpse into this untold and often overlooked aspect of the African American experience. These stories illustrate that though race and racism frequently have played a defining role in the African American experience many individuals have succeeded and flourished despite those odds. This book should be inspiration to anyone who questions whether they have what it takes to overcome adversity.

2 people found this helpful