Sunday, February 27, 2011
8563: Black Women History & Money Makers.
From USA TODAY…
Black women paved economic inroads
By Julianne Malveaux
Black History Month has often been a celebration of well-known African-American men, but many women were no less accomplished in breaking historic barriers, including in the economic arena.
Many people know about Madame C.J. Walker, born Sarah Breedlove, who founded her own hair care company and was the first female African-American millionaire in our nation. Most don’t know about Maggie Lena Walker, the first woman to charter a bank in the USA. She founded the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank in 1903. In 1929, the bank was merged with two other African-American-owned banks in Richmond, Va., and Walker stayed on as chairman of the board.
When people think about African Americans and the economy, we rarely think of black economic history, of those African Americans who, despite a tilted playing field, managed to both survive and thrive. Others included Sadie Tanner Mosell Alexander, the first black woman to get a Ph.D. in economics, and Mary Ellen Pleasant, a San Francisco millionaire, and many more.
The point is not to regale riches but to remind Americans that though the economic game has been rigged, it is a game African Americans have played and won despite the barriers.
And the trails are still being blazed. Ursula Burns, who started as an intern at the Xerox Corp., is hailed today as the first African-American woman to lead a Fortune 500 company. Less well known are Carla Ann Harris and Aulana Peters. Harris is a senior investment banker at Morgan Stanley who was named one of the 50 most powerful African Americans on Wall Street.With the meltdown of financial markets, the Securities and Exchange Commission has been front and center in the news, but who knows that Peters was the first African American to serve — from 1984 to 1988 — as an SEC commissioner?
History belongs to those women who hold the pen, who choose to write themselves or their sisters into the annals of our nation’s history. For those whose names we hear, we stop to honor and note their accomplishments. For the scores of others whose names we’ll never know, the country owes a debt of gratitude that can’t be repaid in a month, but will surely be remembered for years to come.
Julianne Malveaux is an economist, writer and president of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C.Her most recent book is Surviving and Thriving: 365 Facts in Black Economic History.