Did You Know the Founder of Black Enterprise, Earl Graves Sr., Was Born on This Day?

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This Day In History: January 9th

Entrepreneur and publisher, Earl G. Graves Sr. was a strong supporter of Black-owned businesses and civil rights. He helped to pioneer the way business professionals of color were viewed by establishing the magazine, Black Enterprise, in 1970 and the platform continues to provide valuable information to new generations of readers.

Graves was born on January 9, 1935, in New York, New York. He attended Morgan State University in 1953 and earned his degree in economics. After graduating, he served in the army for two years and transitioned into politics. He volunteered for the Democratic National Convention during the 1964 presidential election cycle which led to a job as an administrative assistant for Robert F. Kennedy (he held the role for three years). 

Kennedy’s assassination halted his political pursuits and he decided to enter the business realm. By the end of the 1960s, Graves had his sights set on establishing a publication that advocated for Black entrepreneurship. He founded Black Enterprise Magazine in 1970 with the intent to highlight Black businesses and also provide business strategies. In 2006 Graves named his son, Earl “Butch” Graves Jr., as the new President and CEO of the company. 

His other business ventures include the creation of Earl G. Graves, Ltd., which is the parent company of Earl G. Graves Publishing Company. He was also the head of Pepsi-Cola of Washington, DC and served on the boards of major corporations such as American Airlines and Daimler Chrysler. Through all of his endeavors, Graves made sure to promote the Black community and their businesses. 

In 1997, Graves further shared his insights on the business world and entrepreneurship with the publication of his book, “How to Succeed in Business Without Being White: Straight Talk on Making It in America.” The book became a New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller. 

Graves has been honored with awards such as the NAACP Spingarn Medal and in 2002, Fortune Magazine named Graves one of fifty most powerful and influential African Americans in corporate America. He committed his career to the promotion of business opportunities for people of color. Graves died on April 6, 2020. 

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