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In the Black: a History of African Americans on Wall Street.

by Gregory S. Bell, John Wiley & Sons, January 2002 $24.95, ISBN 0-471-40392-X

Gregory S. Bell delivers a magnificent history of African-American financiers with In the Black. Bell--who is the son of Travers Bell, cofounder of Daniels & Bell, the first black-owned member of the New York Stock Exchange--has interests that extend beyond his father's. In addition to the rich history of African-American pioneers on Wall Street, In the Black is also a journey through the history of blacks in a corporate America that was particularly treacherous in decades past.

Bell's narrative starts in the mid-17th century with the beginning of New York's financial district. African-American pioneers are profiled from that period through the roaring 20s, when high-risk trading and speculation provided opportunities for black entrepreneurs with little to lose. In the Black chronicles the Greenwood District in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the "Negro Wall Street," and the subsequent Tulsa Race Riot. Bell explores a host of early business trailblazers, including Arthur Gadson, H.R. George and the Jones brothers. Bell also observes black capitalists from around the country who weren't directly involved in securities--Alonzo Herndon, Madame C.J. Walker and others--but who provided a paradigm for other black businesspeople to eventually follow.

In the Black is a journey of African Americans in the securities industry, struggling through the Great Depression, and eventually acquiring a place on the New York Stock Exchange. The book also notes larger firms like Merrill Lynch, whose African-American talent sought to bring investing to largely black neighborhoods like Harlem in New York City. Many African-American business icons are featured in the their early days during the 1970s. To read about Earl Graves of Black Enterprise, Byron Lewis of Uniworld Group or Edward Lewis of Essence as struggling, undercapitalized business owners is a testament to what they have built.

The late Reginald Lewis is also placed in proper context. It was Lewis' legal savvy that helped to broker financing for the aforementioned business leaders. In the Black juxtaposes the success of these men with the rise of African-American elected officials like Atlanta's Maynard Jackson and Cleveland's Carl Stokes, mayors who aggressively advocated economic opportunities for black people. In short, In the Black is a comprehensive look at American history and business history, right up to leaders of today. Given the celebration of recent African-American corporate leaders at AOL Time Warner, Merrill Lynch and American Express, In the Black could not be more appropriate. It is filled with fascinating information, and Bell does a superb job as narrator, taking the reader along as he observes the gradual emergence of African-American businesspeople involved on a global scale.

--Tracy Grant is the author of the upcoming novel Chocolate Thai.
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Copyright 2002, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Grant, Tracy
Publication:Black Issues Book Review
Article Type:Book Review
Date:May 1, 2002
Words:447
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