Cover for Weems: The Merchant Prince of Black Chicago: Anthony Overton and the Building of a Financial Empire. Click for larger image

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 NAACP’s 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 businesses—and 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 Chicago’s 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, 1920–1929

"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


Robert E. Weems Jr. is the Willard W. Garvey Distinguished Professor of Business History at Wichita State University. His books include Business in Black and White: American Presidents and Black Entrepreneurs in the Twentieth Century and Building the Black Metropolis: African American Entrepreneurship in Chicago.

To order online:
//www.press.uillinois.edu/books/catalog/42gbp6ky9780252043062.html

To order by phone:
(800) 621-2736 (USA/Canada)
(773) 702-7000 (International)

Related Titles

previous book next book
A Hero on Mount St. Helens - Cover
A Hero on Mount St. Helens

The Life and Legacy of David A. Johnston

Melanie Holmes

Women, Gender, and Families of Color - Cover
Women, Gender, and Families of Color

Edited by Jennifer F. Hamer

Mayor Harold Washington - Cover
Mayor Harold Washington

Champion of Race and Reform in Chicago

Roger Biles

Building the Black Arts Movement - Cover
Building the Black Arts Movement

Hoyt Fuller and the Cultural Politics of the 1960s

Jonathan Fenderson

Building the Black Metropolis - Cover
Building the Black Metropolis

African American Entrepreneurship in Chicago

Edited by Robert E. Weems Jr. and Jason P. Chambers

Ebony Magazine and Lerone Bennett Jr. - Cover
Ebony Magazine and Lerone Bennett Jr.

Popular Black History in Postwar America

E. James West

Black Public History in Chicago - Cover
Black Public History in Chicago

Civil Rights Activism from World War II into the Cold War

Ian Rocksborough-Smith

Black Music Research Journal - Cover
Black Music Research Journal

Edited by Gayle Murchison

Archibald Motley Jr. and Racial Reinvention - Cover
Archibald Motley Jr. and Racial Reinvention

The Old Negro in New Negro Art

Phoebe Wolfskill

Along the Streets of Bronzeville - Cover
Along the Streets of Bronzeville

Black Chicago's Literary Landscape

Elizabeth Schroeder Schlabach