With it being the last official day of Black History Month, we decided to list a few influential people in our black culture who paved the way and open doors for generations after generations to look up to and hopefully become someday.
Robert L. Johnson, born in Hickory, Mississippi, 9th out of 10 children, was the first black billionaire. He graduated from University of Illinois and got his master’s from Princeton. He began work as the Public Affairs director for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and worked as director of communications for DC office of the National Urban League. He also worked as a press secretary.
Johnson founded BET in 1980, the first black cable television network. It initially only aired for 2 hours on a Friday Night. It took 5 years to turn a profit and in 1991 became the first black controlled company listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Johnson sold BET to Viacom in 2000 for $3 Billion, though he remained CEO until 2006. He also founded The RLJ Companies, a company that does hotel real estate investment, private equity, financial services, asset management, automobile dealerships, sports and entertainment and Video Lottery Terminal gaming. It has offices in 6 cities nationally, including Monrovia, Liberia.
Johnson was formerly the majority owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, becoming the first black majority club owner of a major American sports league in 2002. He sold to Michael Jordan in 2010.
Magic Johnson- Earvin Johnson Jr.
The NBA’s first overall pick in 1979, He played for the Lakers from 79 to 91, then again in 96. He coached the Lakers in 94. He is a 5 time champion, 3 time finals and overall MVP and 12 time all-star. He also won a gold medal in the Olympics as a part of the Dream Team. He has been inducted into the Hall of Fame. Ranked by many as the greatest point guard in NBA history.
Magic was part owner of the Lakers for years. He is still one of the owners of the Dodgers and as of this year the LA Starks as well.
He hosted a late night talk show in 98, but it was quickly cancelled. Following that he started a record label called Magic Johnson Music. His first act was Avant. He was also one of the promoters for the Velvet Rope tour. He also had a partnership with Starbucks for 12 years.
He runs Magic Johnson Enterprises, which is worth around $700 million. Included in this company are Magic Johnson Productions, Magic Johnson Theatres, and Magic Johnson Entertainment, which is a movie studio. Magic has also started a pre-paid card company called Magic Card, as well as a contract food service with Sodexo.
On June 27, 2012, Magic launched Aspire TV, a cable channel that celebrates the black experience. The channel broadcasts such shows as Exhale, a talk show with hosts such as Malinda Williams and Issa Rae, ABFF Independent, which shows black films, an HBCU sports highlight program, a comedy show and much more. Outside of business, Magic is a huge HIV activist as well as a supporter of the development of black business.
Oprah was the richest black person of the 20th century and currently America’s only black billionaire. She started work 30 years ago in 1984 on a small talk show in Chicago. Her show quickly became the highest rated show in Chicago. She became syndicated in 86. She then became the number one daytime talk show in America.
She started producing in 89 with The Women of Brewster Place. She also produced the film adaptation of Beloved, and Their Eyes Were Watching God. She went on to start O magazine, which was the most successful magazine start-up. She also has a deal through XM radio for Oprah Radio. Oprah cofounded the network Oxygen. She is also founder and president of Harpo Productions, which produces Dr. Phil, Rachael Ray and Dr. Oz. Oprah also produced The Color Purple for Broadway.
She launched OWN in 2011. Although OWN had a rough start, it is not profit positive. She has been in 19 movies and TV shows. She was the highest earning celebrity of 2013. Oprah is currently worth almost $3 Billion.
Berry Gordy was born in 1929. He began by trying to box, opening a record store, working on an assembly line, and a tour in the army during the Korean war. He found success first as a song writer. His early credits include Lonely Teardrops and To Be Loved by Jackie Wilson. However, he wanted more and since he did not like the way his songs were produced and the record companies did not take him seriously, he set out on his own. He started Motown on an $800 loan in 1960. The infamous Hitsville was just a house that Gordy turned into an office and recording studio. The first year of Motown Gordy had a hit with Money (That’s What I Want), which he co-wrote. The Miracles also had a huge hit with shop around. At the beginning of Hitsville, Gordy and his family lived upstairs while he built Motown downstairs. And so began the Motown era.
He moved into film in the 70s. It started with Diana Ross and Billy Dee’s classics, Lady Sings the Blues and Mahogany. He then went on to produce The Wiz and The Last Dragon. Gordy sold Motown in 1988 for $61 million. We owe so much of our culture to Gordy. So many of our legends were discovered by him; from Stevie Wonder to Diana Ross, The Temptations, Smokey Robinson, Michael Jackson and Marvin Gaye just to name the biggest.
Gordy has most recently produced Motown: The Musical for Broadway.
One of the most influential producers, arrangers, and songwriters of the 20th century, it is hard to summarize Quincy Jones’ career. He has been working for over 60 years and has in that time worked with everybody, such as Michael Jackson, Frank Sinatra, Miles Davis, Sarah Vaughan, Ray Charles, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Bono, Stevie Wonder, Barry White, Brandy, Ron Isley, Heavy D, R. Kelly, Queen Latifah, Tamia, Brian Mcknight, SWV, Charlie Wilson, Nancy Wilson, Yo Yoo, Ella Fitzgerald and so much more. “We Are the World”, which Quincy produced and conducted in the best-selling single of all time. Quincy is a conductor, songwriter, producer of music and film, arranged, and to begin with a jazz musician. He is known for bringing together jazz and hip hop. He was the first respected black composers in Hollywood, composing the first synthesizer based pop theme song for the series Ironside. He also went on to produce 3 of Michael Jackson’s solo albums, Off The Wall, Bad, and Thriller, which is the best-selling album of all time with over 50 million albums sold. He is the all-time most nominated Grammy artist with 79 nominations.
Quincy was the first black high level executive of an established major record company. He was also the first black person to produce film scores. He co-produced the classic film The Color Purple. He also helped launch The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. He started Quincy Jones Entertainment in 1990. QJE not only produced The Fresh Prince, but also In The House and Mad TV just to name a few. Quincy founded Vive magazine in 1991. Quincy’s own record company Qwest Records is responsible for Tevin Campbell and the soundtracks to Boyz N The Hood and Malcolm X. He also formed a group which became one of the largest minority owned broadcasting companies in America. He went on to sell Qwest Broadcasting for $270 million.
Quincy continues to produce albums, write books and do great work for the music community as well as humanitarian works.
Russell Simmons is hip hop. Russell has been music, partially music from New York since his early 20s. One of Russell’s first artists he began promoting was the legendary, Run DMC, which also happens to feature his brother, (Rev.) Run. After promoting and seeing the potential that his artists had, he decided to partner with Rick Rubin to create Def Jam Records in 1984, which became the foundation of hip hop. Some of Def Jam’s earlier signees were The Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Public Enemy and of course, Run DMC. Russell later created Rush Communications Inc., which included Phat Farm Clothing, television shows, a management company, a magazine, and an advertising agency. His movie production house produced Krush Grove and The Nutty Professor. In 1999, Russell sold his stake in Def Jam Records to Universal Music Group for $100 million. In 2000, Russell co-founded the internet start-up 360 Hip Hop, which was later sold to BET. In 2004, he sold Phat Farm for $140 million. In 2003,cofounded Prepaid Visa Rush Card, which is still currently today is one of Russell’s current business operations he has been extremely active in.
Sean “Diddy” Combs
Although we spoke on Sean “Diddy” Combs on a previous Black History Figure post: http://www.canitalkmyish.com/?p=2704 so there’s no need to get into too many details but it’s hard to speak on anything in this current hip hop culture without mentioning Sean Combs. Sean Combs is a rapper, singer, dancer, producer, actor and entrepreneur. As of today’s, Sean Combs has a net worth of $580 million ranking him #1 in the Hip Hop culture.
Diddy started out as a party promoter at the college he was attending at the time, Howard University where he earned an internship at Uptown Records that later resulted to him dropping out of college to pursue his dreams of being in the music industry. Diddy’s first major artists that he discovered and managed was Mary J. Blige and Jodeci as the a top executive at Uptown. Diddy was later fired from Uptown, he created his own record company, Bad Boy Records where artists like The Notorious B.I.G., Craig Mack, Carl Thomas, Father M.C., and Faith Evans. But Diddy just didn’t limit himself to just his artists, he also produced records for other artists such as Boys II Men, Usher, Mariah Carey, Aretha Franklin and currently Rick Ross but that’s only just to name a few.
Diddy has taken over many industries from being part owner of Revolt TV, Ciroc, Sean John, and of course Bad Boy Records. There’s no telling what Diddy will come out with next. When it comes Sean “Diddy” Combs, expect the unexpected.