6 Black millionaires who rose from the depths of slavery

(Photo credit: Shutterstock.com / Everett Historical)

Aside from Madam CJ Walker, the history of Black wealth is an uncelebrated and unknown phenomenon. However, history notes that Booker T. Washington and his Tuskegee Institute produced more self-made Black millionaires than Harvard, Princeton and Yale combined. Below we examine success stories of freed Blacks, slaves and the children of slaves.

Mary Ellen Pleasant (1814-1904)

Born in Virginia and later moving to San Francisco in 1852, Pleasant became one of the first African American female self-made millionaires in the U.S. despite the significant obstacles she faced as a Black woman. While working on the Underground Railroad, she built a massive investment portfolio that was reportedly worth as much as $30 million at one time. Pleasant was heavily invested in real estate, as well as gold and silver mines. She was the definition of a philanthropist, driven to build the most wealth possible so she could help as many people as possible.

O. W. Gurley (1868-1935)

Born on Christmas Day in 1868 in Huntsville, Alabama, Gurley grew up in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. In 1893 Gurley staked a claim in Perry, Noble County Oklahoman, which he would eventually sell in 1905 to buy 40 acres of land in North Tulsa and established his first business, a hotel. Gurley owned more than one hundred properties in the Greenwood district of Tulsa.

Annie Turnbo-Malone (1869-1957)

Turnbo-Malone was a savvy entrepreneur, businesswoman, inventor and philanthropist. She started a major commercial enterprise that made beauty products and cosmetics for Black women. The daughter of former slaves, she and her family escaped from Kentucky and moved to Illinois. Turnbo-Malone started to produce her own hair-care products, designed specifically for Black women. She called it “Wonderful Hair Grower.” Malone became a millionaire by successfully developing and marketing hair products for Black women in St. Louis.

Continue reading on the next page.

5 1 vote
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Join our Newsletter

Sign up for Rolling Out news straight to your inbox.

Read more about:
Also read
What's new