8 Black CEOs of Fortune 500 companies

Ursala Burns

Not very long ago, the concept of having an African American man or woman sitting at the helm of a major U.S. corporation, was completely unheard of. Not until recent history, did the glass window start to exhibit cracks. Before that time, Blacks were brought to a screeching halt just shy of the executive offices. Many were forced to be satisfied with rather symbolic titles in major corporations’ diversity programs, or “honored” with the title of vice president of this department or that department at best.

Fast forward to the present day. Although the glass is not completely gone, it has been severely broken. There are now eight Black CEOs of Fortune 500 companies — some of the largest corporations in the world. Although the ration of eight Black CEOs out of 500 might not sound like a major triumph, it shows our youth those jobs can now be theirs, and the once unobtainable is now within their grasps.

Deserving great honor and respect for their achievements and courage, we highlight these eight leaders of brands that are known the world over.

  • Clarence Otis, Jr. – Mr. Otis is the CEO of the Darden Restaurant company (owner of a number of popular fast food brands).
  • Don Thompson – Mr. Thompson is the CEO of one of the most well-known brands on the planet – McDonald’s.
  • John W. Thompson – Mr. Thompson is the Chairman of the Board of software and tech firm, Microsoft
  • Kenneth Frazier – Mr. Frazier is the President and CEO of Merck & Co.
  • Kenneth Chenault – Mr. Chenault is one of the first Black trailblazers, becoming CEO of American Express in 2001.
  • Roger Ferguson, Jr. – Mr. Ferguson is the President and CEO of insurance industry giant TIAA-CREF (with well over $400 Billion under management)
  • Ursula Burns – Ms. Burns is the Chairman and CEO of Xerox, one the world’s most iconic brands.
  • Marvin Ellison – Mr. Ellison is the new CEO of JC Penney as of Nov 1, 2014 , having been recruited from his prior EVP position at The Home Depot

Respecting those that paved the way for these innovators and trailblazers, we must also recognize some former Black leaders of Fortune 500 companies:

  • Aylwin Lewis is the former head of renowned Sears corporation.
  • Franklin Raines was the head of mortgage loan behemoth – Fannie Mae.
  • Lloyd Ward is the former leader of Maytag, the famed appliance maker.
  • Richard Parsons was the head of entertainment giant – Time Warner
  • Ronald Williams was the head of Aetna – one of the best known names in insurance.
  • Stanley O’Neal is the former head of Merrill Lynch


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