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At a certain point in time, Chicago was home to the largest amount of black CEO’s and company owners in the United States. Times have changed but history will remain to remind us of how these companies got started despite the odds and the people behind it. On April 23, PBS will air Boss: The Black Experience in Business. The documentary, directed by award-winning filmmaker Stanley Nelson, inspired by Chicago HQed HistoryMakers’ stories, with HistoryMakers Founder and President Julieanna Richardson serving as co-executive producer. Boss traces more than 150 years of African American business history. Though the business climate with black owned business is not like it was back in the day, such as the recent announcement of Johnson Publishing LLC filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, these stories serve as inspiration, tying together the past and the present. Viewers will learn about the untold story of African American entrepreneurship, where skill, industriousness, ingenuity and sheer courage in the face of overwhelming odds provided the backbone of this nation’s economic and social growth.
“African Americans have played a central role in the history of American business, but their stories are often left untold. Today, as we see talented black businessmen and women not only building successful companies in mainstream America, but also emerging as managers and CEOs for some of the most powerful corporate entities in the world, Boss: The Black Experience in Business shares the remarkable stories of a community facing tremendous obstacles to pursue social, political and economic progress.” – Stanley Nelson
Boss: The Black Experience in Business traces the lives of African American entrepreneurs over 150 years, from those bound by bondage to moguls at the top of million-dollar empires. The two-hour documentary tells the inspiring stories of trailblazing African American entrepreneurs and the significant contributions of contemporary business leaders. Stories featured in the film include those of entrepreneur Madam C.J. Walker, publisher John H. Johnson, Motown CEO Berry Gordy, and business pioneer and philanthropist Reginald F. Lewis, among others. The film features new interviews with Vernon Jordan, senior managing director of Lazard, Freres & Co. LLC.; Cathy Hughes, CEO and founder of Urban One; Ursula Burns, former CEO of Xerox and chairman of VEON; Ken Frazier, chairman, president and CEO of Merck & Co., Inc.; Richelieu Dennis, founder, CEO and executive chairman of Sundial Brands; Robert F. Smith, chairman and CEO of Vista Equity Managing Partners, LLC; Earl “Butch” Graves, Jr., CEO of Black Enterprise; and John Rogers, CEO and founder of Ariel Investments.
History of business and entrepreneurship lies at the heart of the American story, but often absent are the names and experiences of African Americans who, from the country’s earliest days, have embodied the qualities of innovation, risk-taking and determination to forge a path toward a better life – which is at the heart of the American entrepreneurial spirit.
photos: courtesy Thirteen.org
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