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9 Black groundbreaking women who were about their business

by The Grio

Long before Black Twitter and TikTok began “standing on business,” there was a long legacy of Black women who were about their business. Today, Black women are no strangers to the business world; from women climbing the ranks of major corporations to launching empires of their own, JPMorgan reports Black women are behind nearly 2.7 million businesses in the U.S., making them the fastest-growing demographic of entrepreneurs. 

While there was a significant spike in entrepreneurship as the world shifted in 2020, Black excellence in business existed long before then. Black women like Ursula M. Burns and Cathy Hughes walked so that modern-day businesswomen like Oprah Winfrey and Issa Rae could run. From innovative startups to corporate giants, these women exemplify resilience, creativity, and unwavering determination, proving that success can transcend race and gender. 

Maggie Lena Walker 

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In 1903, Maggie Lena Walker chartered the Saint Luke Penny Savings Bank in Richmond, Va., making her the first Black woman to charter a bank in the United States. In addition to segregation, at the time, the banking and finance industries were boys’ clubs that offered little to no leadership opportunities for women, let alone women of color. Walker broke this norm by not only establishing the bank in Richmond but also serving as its president, where she led the business through the financial struggles of the Great Depression. According to the Library of Congress, the Saint Luke Penny Bank worked to empower the Black community by increasing home ownership through the distribution of mortgage loans to Black families and employment rates by primarily selecting Black women to lead its operations. 

Ursula M. Burns 

In 2009, Ursula Burns made history as the first Black woman to lead a Fortune 500 company when she was named chief executive officer of Xerox. Before her historic rise to leadership, Burns started her career as a mechanical…

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