African Americans have been inordinately impacted by the excruciatingly long economic slump the country is mired in. Much less known are the plethora of black financial advisers, experts and market strategists who are doing big things as managers of assets worth billions of dollars.

Many used impoverished childhoods to fuel their mastery of finance. As seen in the Atlanta Post, these individuals have risen to the top of their respective professions and are among the most sought-after personalities in the country based upon their expertise. –terry shropshire

Chris Gardener: His heart-wrenching story from homeless single dad to financial superstar became the basis for the film, The Pursuit of Happyness, starring Academy Award nominee Will Smith. Despite major setbacks in life, Gardner was able to earn a spot at the competitive financial company Dean Witter, and from there, his career in money management took off. He eventually founded Gardner Rich LLC in 1987. The company reportedly has close to $1 billion in assets under its management.

Mellody Hobson: When she was growing up, money was tight. She was the youngest of six kids raised by a single mother, and the lack of money made Hobson want to become a student of finance. Her attempts to understand money fueled her ambition to become one of the most respected financial gurus in the business. Hobson is president of the Chicago-based investment management firm Ariel Investments LLC. She is also the chairman of the board of trustees for the company, which manages billions of dollars in assets. Her financial wizardry goes beyond her work at Ariel. Hobson is a nationally recognized adviser on financial literacy and investor education. She is a regular financial contributor on ABC’s ”Good Morning America,” and a columnist for Black Enterprise. Hobson is also a director of three public companies: DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc., Estée Lauder Companies Inc. and Starbucks Corporation.

Michelle Singletary: She knows how to navigate the troublesome waters of finance. She learned how to do so from her grandmother. In her book, Spend Well, Live Rich: How to Get What You Want with the Money You Have, she explains how her grandmother, whose annual salary never exceeded $13,000, ended up owning her own home, paying off a car loan, and had a savings account that supplemented her Social Security check and small pension. That early financial education set the tone for Singletary’s down-home advice — advice that can be found in The Washington Post column, “The Color of Money,” which is now carried in more than 100 newspapers across the country, including, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Miami Herald, Boston Globe and Philadelphia Inquirer. Singletary has also appeared on the “Diane Rehm Show,” ”Oprah,” “NBC’s Today Show,” “The Early Show on CBS,” “Nightline,” and CNN.

Dr. Boyce Watkins: Watkins has been preaching the gospel of economic empowerment and financial responsibility for some time now. That message has pretty much landed him a platform to offer his advice and financial commentary on national media outlets, including CNN, “Good Morning America,” MSNBC, FOX News, “The Today Show” and “The Tom Joyner Morning Show.” The finance professor at Syracuse University has an impressive educational background to support his guru status. In college, he was selected by the Wall Street Journal as Outstanding Graduating Senior in Finance. He went on to earn a master’s in mathematical statistics from The University of Kentucky and a Ph.D. in finance from Ohio State University.

Kelvin Boston: A product of the public housing projects of South Wilmington, Del., Boston returned to his old neighborhood shortly after graduating from Lincoln University (Pa.) and organized a housing counseling service to help low-income families become homeowners. Boston is the executive producer and host of the “Moneywise with Kelvin Boston” public television series. He is also the author of the best-selling books, Smart Money Moves For African Americans and Who’s Afraid to Be A Millionaire.