Black History Month Financial Heroes

February is Black History Month, a month to recognize and celebrate the countless contributions to our society from African Americans throughout history. In honor of this month, we would like to recognize these individuals from the finance industry, who broke ground, shaped history, and made it possible for others to follow in their footsteps.

Ernesta Procope

Nicknamed the “First Lady of Wallstreet,” Ernesta founded EG Bowman Company, a private insurance company that was the first Black-owned business on Wall Street. Ernesta advocated for insurance equality for low-income families, and marginalized communities. Years later, she handled accounts for several Fortune 500 companies, including PepsiCo, while continuing the fight for access to insurance for everyone.

Maggie Lena Walker

By founding St. Luke Penny Savings Bank in 1903, Maggie Lena Walker became the first woman to charter and own a bank in the United States. Maggie also sat on the board of directors for the institution. St. Luke Penny Bank was the oldest operated African American owned bank in the United States until the early 2000s. Walker also served as the Vice President of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Richmond Chapter, and was a leader within the National Association of Colored Women.

John W. Rogers Jr., & Mellody Hobson

Rogers and Hobson are Co-CEOs at Ariel Investments, one of the largest minority-owned global asset management firms. Based out of Chicago, Ariel was formed in 1983 when Rogers was only 24 years old. With a little over $16 billion in assets, they are inspired by Warren Buffet’s style of investing, and have averaged over 9% growth for the past 10 years.

Robert L. Johnson

With a background in television, Johnson noticed an overlooked segment of viewers, and founded Black Entertainment Television (BET), with a $15,000 personal loan. In 1991, BET went public, becoming the first Black-owned company to trade on the New York Stock Exchange. The growth and success of his company led Johnson to become the first Black American with a net worth of a billion dollars.

These are just a few of the many individuals who have shaped the course of American history. We honor their legacies that have not only shaped history, but also inspire new people to pave the way for a more inclusive future.

Click here to learn more about Black History Month.

Click here for a spotlight on Black History Month from the U.S. Department of Defense. 

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