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Publisher's Summary

The astonishing untold history of America's first black millionaires - former slaves who endured incredible challenges to amass and maintain their wealth for a century, from the Jacksonian period to the Roaring '20s - self-made entrepreneurs whose unknown success mirrored that of American business heroes such as Henry Ford, John D. Rockefeller, and Thomas Edison.

While Oprah Winfrey, Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Michael Jordan, and Will Smith are among the estimated 35,000 black millionaires in the nation today, these famous celebrities were not the first blacks to reach the storied 1 percent. Between the years of 1830 and 1927, as the last generation of blacks born into slavery were reaching maturity, a small group of smart, tenacious, and daring men and women broke new ground to attain the highest levels of financial success.

Black Fortunes is an intriguing look at these remarkable individuals, including Napoleon Bonaparte Drew - author Shomari Wills' great-great-great-grandfather - the first black man in Powhatan County (contemporary Richmond) to own property in post-Civil War Virginia. His achievements were matched by five other unknown black entrepreneurs including:

  • Mary Ellen Pleasant, who used her Gold Rush wealth to further the cause of abolitionist John Brown
  • Robert Reed Church, who became the largest landowner in Tennessee
  • Hannah Elias, the mistress of a New York City millionaire, who used the land her lover gave her to build an empire in Harlem
  • Orphan and self-taught chemist Annie Turnbo-Malone, who developed the first national brand of hair care products
  • Madam C. J Walker, Turnbo-Malone's employee who would earn the nickname America's "first female black millionaire"
  • Mississippi school teacher O. W. Gurley, who developed a piece of Tulsa, Oklahoma, into a "town" for wealthy black professionals and craftsmen that would become known as "the Black Wall Street"

A fresh, little-known chapter in the nation's story - a blend of Hidden Figures, Titan, and The Tycoons - Black Fortunes illuminates the birth of the black business titan and the emergence of the black marketplace in America as never before.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.
©2018 Shomari Wills (P)2018 HarperCollins Publishers

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Great Read! True Nuggets of Black Entrepreneurship

Liked the history and multiple number of success and full entrepreneurial journeys of these Black Americans. You will be forever changed with this read.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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True His/Herstory

I loved the stories. It had confirmed the story of Robert Church, from a previous book I read. the narrator is fitting, not over barring or dull while narrating the story. Not being bias, but as a black male I feel black history is American history.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Great story! Flowed perfectly

Great storytelling, phenomal flow/writing style and learned something! Absolutely recommend this book and it should be required reading for any African American lit class.

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Must Read

I am so glad I brought this book this is one of the best books I have came across in some time. I was astonished that I have never heard of these individuals well the only one being Madam CJ Walker. I was amazed to find out CJ Walker basically took Annie Malones secrets and products and sold them as hers. As an African American who went to an HBCU you would think we would know the history of these people...our people. This book was eye opening and brilliant. This is a must have in any library especially if you are an African American...you have to get this book. If our people could make it and become wealthy through all they endured back then I’m sure we can do the same thing today.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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MY NEW HISTORY BOOK!


I LOVED IT💖 I felt like I was in school all over again. Thank You For Sharing

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must read

Don't call yourself knowledgeable if you have read and processed this information fully and completely.

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  • michael
  • SCOTTSDALE, AZ, United States
  • 07-13-18

Amazing Lost History

Although much of the book is apparently pieced together from 3rd party sources, it is still an amazing account of how "anyone" in America can get rich. But an even more chilling account of how racial tensions, divides, and misunderstandings quickly dissolve the apparent class mobility of wealthy blacks. This is not merely a history lesson, this is a lesson of how history keeps repeating itself in this country (and around the world). One of the best books I've listen to in a while.

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Great story telling

This was a well written, thoughtful and informative book, not only about black wealth, but the people and circumstances attached. If the story of Annie Malone is true, we need to make the edits in history to give that woman and her legacy due credit add its only fair.

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Superb!

A wealth of inspirational knowledge for African americans and all people. A pleasureable and enlightening listen! Check it out!

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Torough, well contextualized insightful!

I highly recommend it. I will read it again myself.
The Narrator was top notch. Colorful and engaging!

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  • Anonymous User
  • 04-04-18

Excellent!

Loved it! By turns, enlightening, inspirational and distressing but still sounding a note of optimism.