Only 7 percent of U.S. businesses are owned by African-Americans. Among firms that are big enough to have employees, the proportion drops to 1.8 percent.
King Taylor Jr., a St. Louisan who’s among that 1.8 percent, thinks the number ought to be bigger. So he has written a small, self-published book on the history of African-American entrepreneurs, and he is embarking on a lecture and book-signing tour to promote the idea that more African-Americans should emulate their successful ancestors.
The book is “Pennies, Nickels & Dimes: A historical perspective of the African-American entrepreneur and the African-American economy.” At 81 pages, it’s a quick read and not a comprehensive history, but it contains short sketches of people including Madam C.J. Walker, who built a cosmetics empire in the early 20th century, and the owners of the Negro Leagues baseball teams. One chapter tells the history of “Black Wall Street,” a section of Tulsa, Okla., where 600 black-owned businesses thrived until a 1921 riot orchestrated by the Ku Klux Klan.
Taylor also offers some thoughts on why African-American entrepreneurs are rare today; his explanation boils down to a lack of capital and business education.
Taylor, who owns Comet Medical Supply, says he’s working on a second volume, and I hope he’ll go into more depth in telling the stories of past and present entrepreneurs.
He’ll discuss the book at noon this Saturday at the Monsanto YMCA, 5555 Page Boulevard, and at noon June 15 at Community Women Against Hardship, 3963 West Belle Place. He has a few more speaking engagements scheduled in St. Louis in July, and will make a tour of historically black colleges this fall.