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Lacking capital, managerial and technical knowledge and crippled by prejudice, the minority businessman has been effectively kept out of the American marketplace. We want to help change this.
— Black Enterprise, August 1970
Those words graced the editorial pages of the inaugural issue of this magazine 30 years ago. It was our response to the question, “Why black enterprise?” Since that statement was written and signed by me and a distinguished board of advisors that included political and civil rights leaders, business pioneers, and a former Federal Reserve governor, African Americans have made significant strides in the business world. We have witnessed the growth and expansion of a myriad of black-owned businesses. We have seen the rise of black executives up the corporate ladder. We have seen more black citizens being woven into the fabric of the American middle and upper class.
I beam with pride at these accomplishments and the significant role our magazine has played in our people’s advancement.
But as I reflect on a life that I have devoted to the spawning and nurturing of this publication, I am reminded of a comment that I have often made as it relates to our progress in this land of opportunity. I have said that if we removed racism from the equation, we’d be writing a much grander history. Racism has held this country back, and not just as it relates to black people. When you look at the impact we have made in the sciences, in education and the like, imagine what a great country this could be if we could get the issue of race out of the way.
That’s why there was — and will still be — a need for black enterprise. The core of our mission will be a part of us for the next 30 years: To ensure that all African Americans gain the opportunity to participate in the free enterprise system and gain a considerable measure of the American Dream. Our magazine is about how we, black people, survive in a marketplace with a myriad of obstacles working against us.
Pieces of a Dream
The germ of the idea for this magazine began percolating in 1969 — the year in which the term “black capitalism” was first uttered, the year in which the first man walked on the moon, the year that saw revolutions and great expectations for youth, women, and blacks.
It was also a year in which a young, 34-year-old man discovered a dream that would vastly change his world. That young man, of course, was me.
I had completed a three-year stint as the administrative assistant to Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, who would inevitably make a run for the White House and have his life prematurely snuffed out by an assassin’s bullet. As I sat on an advisory board to the Small Business Administration, I began to drum up conversations with the agency’s director, Howard Samuels, about a concept I had developed. I strongly believed that there was a need for a newsletter to help steer African American entrepreneurs to