My takeaways from the book that I’m (re)reading: Black Fortunes, by Shomari Wills
The book is about America’s first Black millionaires, their lives and the activities through which they accumulated riches, and how they spent their time and their fortunes. I am not a critic and this is not a book review. Suffice to say, I liked it and I recommend it. These are my takeaways:
Real Estate is a common theme. None of the people profiled made their start in real estate, but all of them took to buying and renting out rooms, apartments, buildings at some point in their careers. Collecting rents is a good way to generate significant, economy–proof income on a consistent basis. That cash flow is probably why they could start and re start ventures after innumerable setbacks.
Lending money (professionally, not to busted friends and family) is also common amongst those profiled. Moving communities forward by helping others to start businesses is good wealth and karma building practice.
People who built Fortunes moved around. They went to where the opportunity was. Gold rush in San Francisco? Go there and open boarding houses for gold miners. Oil boom in Oklahoma? Go to Oklahoma and sell whiskey and entertainment to oil field workers. If you’re broke and have been in the same city or state for over five years, you should re think that. If it’s not clicking for you where you are, look around for where your skills and the things you aspire to do are in demand.
None of the Fortunes profiled in this book still exists. The subjects did not die broke, but they also did not leave legacies. There are no libraries, art collections, museums, schools, hospitals or family Fortunes surviving these great Americans and entrepreneurs. The reasons for this are 1) they were Black and capitalists, so they are ignored by history, and 2) they didn’t even try. You can imagine that being Black and rich was taxing on one’s energies. Thinking about multi-generational legacies might have been a lot to ask at the time. However, Standard Oil still exists. The railroads still exist. US Steel still exists, as do the banks and the markets that funded and underwrote their growth, and they are publicly traded. The universities, hospitals, museums, and other institutions built by the white men who founded and built those enterprises still exist...and their families are still wealthy.
African Americans need to get over our fear of the stock market – even Rich African Americans. Dividends are not racist.
Alcoa has outlived all of the steam boats, hotels, boarding houses, hair-care companies, Black banks, pool halls, caterers and other businesses that made Black people rich in this country, and it still pays a dividend. We also need to embrace financial and estate planning. Eight generations of very rich people (read: wealth legacy) does not happen by accident. There is no wealth gene. It’s taught.
William S Jiggetts