The Merchant Prince of Black Chicago
Anthony Overton and the Building of a Financial Empire
The booms and busts of the celebrated African American entrepreneur
Born to enslaved parents, Anthony Overton became one of the leading African American entrepreneurs of the twentieth century. Overton's Chicago-based empire ranged from personal care products and media properties to insurance and finance. Yet, despite success and acclaim as the first business figure to win the NAACPs Spingarn Medal, Overton remains an enigma.
Robert E. Weems Jr. restores Overton to his rightful place in American business history. Dispelling stubborn myths, he traces Overton's rise from mentorship by Booker T. Washington, through early failures, to a fateful move to Chicago in 1911. There, Overton started a popular magazine aimed at African American women that helped him dramatically grow his cosmetics firm. Overton went on to become the first African American to head a major business conglomerate, only to lose significant parts of his businessesand his public persona as "the merchant prince of his race"in the Depression, before rebounding once again in the early 1940s.
Revealing and panoramic, The Merchant Prince of Black Chicago weaves the fascinating life story of an African American trailblazer through the eventful history of his times.
"Weems has produced a pioneering study of Chicagos preeminent financial titan of the Black Metropolis Era of the 1920s and beyond. This first full-length, thoroughly documented account of Anthony Overton meticulously details how he amassed a business fortune while building an empire that became a major source of empowerment for women ranging from executive and managerial appointments to essential clerical positions."--Christopher R. Reed, The Rise of Chicago's Black Metropolis, 19201929
"Drawing on a wealth of previously unexplored primary sources, Weems's seminal study of the Overton conglomerate makes for a tremendous contribution to the expanding field of African American business history."--Juliet E. K. Walker, author of The History of Black Business in America: Capitalism, Race, Entrepreneurship, Volume 1, to 1865, Second Edition
Listen to source interviews from Blues Before Sunrise 2
- Abb Locke - When Howlin' Wolf met Chicago's notorious "Two-Gun Pete"
- Little Brother Montgomery - Hoboing in his youth
- Red Maddock - Days with Chicago singing pianist Billy Samuels
- Grady Freemen - A Blues Comedy of Errors
- Mrs Cosey - Writing a hit song for Louis Jordan
- Clarence Small - Always rehearsing with 'Wings Over Jordan'
- Brewer Phillips - His "adopted" mother Memphis Minnie
- Robert JR Lockwood - Jailed and released a richer man
- Roosevelt Sykes - Hearing himself on record for the first time
- Scotty Piper - The Mayor of 47th St and the 1919 race riot
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