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‘Black Enterprise’ founder Earl Graves Sr. dies at 85

Earl Gilbert Graves Sr. was born in 1935 in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of the Brooklyn borough of New York City in the middle of the Great Depression. His parents, Earl Godwin and Winifred Sealy Graves, as well as the precarious economic conditions of those times, instilled in him the value of hard work and education, which he used to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in economics from Morgan State University.

From there, Graves served as an officer in the U.S. Army for two years before moving on to jobs in law enforcement and real estate. He also joined the presidential campaign staff of former U.S. Attorney General and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy until his assassination in 1968.

Two years later, Graves would found the publication that would change the Black business world. He became one the few African Americans to serve on the boards of intercontinental conglomerates such as American Airlines, Daimler Chrysler, Rohm and Hass, and Federated Department Stores Inc., which today is Macy’s Inc.

He also worked tirelessly on issues pertaining to justice for African Americans, which earned him the NAACP’s highest honor, the Spingarn Medal, in 1999.

Graves leaves behind his three sons: Earl Jr., Johnny and Michael Graves.

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