February is Black History Month, an annual celebration of achievements by black Americans and a time to recognize the central role of African Americans in U.S. history.
This week, we’re highlighting just a few African-American business leaders whose stories inspire and motivate us all to overcome obstacles and pursue our dreams.
Texas native George Foreman epitomizes what it means to redefine yourself and never settle for just “okay.”
As a kid in Houston’s Fifth Ward, Foreman dropped out of school in 9th grade and had a rocky childhood. He joined the Job Corps in 1965 and began to train as a boxer, eventually winning the Olympic gold for the sport in 1968 and becoming a two-time world heavyweight champion.
After his boxing career ended, Foreman started a new career as an entrepreneur, serving as spokesman for a fat-reducing grill that bears his name and eventually selling the naming rights for $138 million.
Raised by a single mother in a New York City housing project, Ursula Burns defied the odds to become the CEO of Xerox in 2009 — the first black woman to head a Fortune 500 company. In 2014, Forbes named her one of the most powerful women in the world.
Burns left Xerox in 2017 and now serves as chairwoman of VEON, senior advisor to Teneo and a board member for several corporations, including Uber. She has also led the White House National STEM program and is a founding board director of Change the Equation, which focuses on improving the country’s education system in science, technology, engineering and math.
Arthur G. Gaston
Born into poverty as the grandson of slaves, serial entrepreneur Arthur G. Gaston was a major figure in the U.S. economy in the 1960s, owning some of the most prominent businesses in the South and advocating for integration in Birmingham.
Gaston’s businesses included a funeral home, a burial insurance company, and the Citizens Savings and Loan Association, the first black-owned financial institution in Birmingham in more than 40 years. He and his wife also established the Booker T. Washington business school.
When he died in 1996 at age 103, Gaston had well over $130 million to his name.
We all likely know a little something about the eponymous talk show host and media mogul, but did you know that Oprah Winfrey was born into poverty in rural Mississippi to a single mother?
Winfrey not only found a career in media but redefined the industry and has been dubbed “Queen of All Media.” The Oprah Winfrey Show ran from 1986 until 2011, earning some of television’s highest ratings. She is also an actress, producer and philanthropist. After ending her talk show, Winfrey created her own network and has a net worth of $3 billion.