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Hermene Hartman

Over the course of her eclectic career, Hermene Hartman has distinguished herself as a media pioneer. The founder of Chicago's leading African American magapaper N'DIGO, she is one of the few African American women in publishing. Hartman was born in Chicago on September 24, 1947, the daughter of Herman Hartman, the first black Pepsi-Cola distributor in the United States and Mildred Bowden, a retired administrator of Cook County Hospital.

Hartman's career began during the Civil Rights Movement while working for Operation Breadbasket with the Reverend Jesse Jackson. She coordinated the organization's Black Expo. She later produced public service programming for WBBM-TV Chicago and taught behavioral sciences at the college level from 1973-1984.

Her move into the publishing industry came after her tenure as vice chancellor of the City Colleges of Chicago, the nation's second largest community college system. She was the first woman to serve in this capacity, overseeing media and community relations, as well as marketing and publications. During this time, Hartman recognized the need for honest representations rather than stereotypical images of African American culture in mainstream media.

In 1989, she founded N'DIGO magapaper. As a writer, Hartman became well known for her publisher's page, which offers insightful social commentary about important issues in the African American community. The paper also features news profiles, business information and other contemporary topics that reflect the interests of Chicago's black middle class.

Hermene Hartman has successfully operated The Hartman Group, a full-service public relations firm, since 1977. She has received many honors and awards of excellence for her contributions to the business and African American communities. Hartman holds masters degrees in sociology and philosophy of education as well as an MBA from the University of Illinois.

Accession Number

A2001.035

Sex

Female

Archival Photo 1
Interview Date

4/4/2001

Last Name

Hartman

Maker Category
Organizations
Search Occupation Category
Speakers Bureau

Yes

Archival Photo 2
Speakers Bureau Availability

Depends on Schedule

First Name

Hermene

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

HAR02

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

Yes - $1,000 - $5,000

Favorite Season

Fall, Spring

Sponsor

McCormick Tribune Foundation

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Italy

Favorite Quote

Just do it.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

9/24/1947

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Shrimp

Short Description

Magazine publishing chief executive Hermene Hartman (1947 - ) is the founder of N'DIGO magazine. As a writer, Hartman became well known for her publisher's page, which offers insightful social commentary about important issues in the African American community. The paper also features news profiles, business information and other contemporary topics that reflect the interests of Chicago's black middle class.

Employment

Rainbow/PUSH

WBBM TV

City Colleges of Chicago

N'DIGO

Hartman Group

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

Lilac

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Hermene Hartman interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Hermene Hartman's favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Hermene Hartman dicusses her father

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Hermene Hartman describes her family's ethnic heritage

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Hermene Hartman describes her father's background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Hermene Hartman discusses her mother

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Hermene Hartman tells of how her parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Hermene Hartman describes her father's personality

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Hermene Hartman describes her mother's personality

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Hermene Hartman recalls her childhood in Chicago

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Hermene Hartman remembers her father's business

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Hermene Hartman recalls becoming aware of class differences

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Hermene Hartman describes her uncle, singer Johnny Hartman

Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Hermene Hartman remembers dining with Bill Cosby as a child

Tape: 1 Story: 15 - Hermene Hartman talks about her uncle Johnny Hartman's music

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Hermene Hartman describes her high school experience

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Hermene Hartman recalls an encounter with a racist high school teacher

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Hermene Hartman discusses the difficulty of adjusting to an all-white high school

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Hermene Hartman provides an example of racism at her high school

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Hermene Hartman discusses the social environment at her high school

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Hermene Hartman discusses her name

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Hermene Hartman describes her college experience

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Hermene Hartman discusses her involvement in the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Hermene Hartman describes her post-college employment experience

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Hermene Hartman explains how she got involved with the City Colleges of Chicago

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Hermene Hartman discusses her job as a television producer

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Hermene Hartman recalls her participation in the first Black Expo

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Hermene Hartman describes the success of Operation Breadbasket

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Hermene Hartman describes her teaching tenure at the City Colleges of Chicago

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Hermene Hartman discusses the importance of the City Colleges of Chicago system

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Hermene Hartman reflects on her accomplishments at the City Colleges of Chicago

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Hermene Hartman discusses her media consulting firm

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Hermene Hartman describes the origins of 'N'DIGO'

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Hermene Hartman discusses the ingredients of 'N'DIGO's' success

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Hermene Hartman stresses the importance of teamwork in the development of 'N'DIGO'

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Hermene Hartman names major benchmarks in the history of 'N'DIGO'

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Hermene Hartman discusses 'N'DIGO's' partnership with the 'Chicago Sun-Times'

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Hermene Hartman pays tribute to the staff of 'N'DIGO'

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Hermene Hartman explains the distribution of 'N'DIGO'

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Hermene Hartman compares 'N'DIGO' with 'Today's Chicago Woman' magazine

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Hermene Hartman describes 'N'DIGO's' partnership with the 'Chicago Tribune'

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Hermene Hartman explains why 'N'DIGO' will remain a free weekly newspaper

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Hermene Hartman discusses 'N'DIGO's' name and status as a newspaper/magazine hybrid

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Hermene Hartman discusses 'N'DIGO's' annual magazine, 'N'DIGO Profiles'

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Hermene Hartman explains how the annual 'N'DIGO' Gala was formed

Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Hermene Hartman discusses 'N'DIGO's' future plans to advocate for African Americans

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Hermene Hartman considers her father's reaction to her success

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Hermene Hartman discusses mentors who have impacted her life

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Hermene Hartman discusses her editorial stances in 'N'DIGO'

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Hermene Hartman sees herself as a black person first

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Hermene Hartman considers her legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Photo - Hermene Hartman with Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. at the Chicago Board of Trade, 1999

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Photo - Hermene Hartman with Freddy Cole and Dr. Leon Dingle at the Jazz Showcase, Chicago, ca. 1990s

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Photo - Hermene Hartman as a toddler, ca. 1949

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Photo - A newborn Hermene Hartman comes home from the hospital with her parents, Chicago, 1947

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Photo - Hermene Hartman with a Mandel's Department Store Santa Claus, Chicago, ca. 1948

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Photo - Hermene Hartman in a publicity shot for 'N'DIGO' newspaper, ca. 2000

Tape: 5 Story: 12 - Photo - Hermene Hartman at the City Colleges of Chicago 75th anniversary luncheon with her parents, Chicago, 1986

Tape: 5 Story: 13 - Photo - Hermene Hartman at the 'N'DIGO' Gala with Nancy Wilson and Dr. Wayne Watson, Chicago, 2000

Tape: 5 Story: 14 - Photo - Hermene Hartman with Rev. Dr. Johnnie Colemon and U.S. Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. after a church service, Chicago, ca. 1990s

Tape: 5 Story: 15 - Photo - Hermene Hartman with U.S. Congressman Charles Rangel and Dr. Leon Dingle at a fundraising luncheon, Chicago, ca. 1990s

Tape: 5 Story: 16 - Photo - Hermene Hartman with Rev. Willie Barrow, receiving an award from the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, Chicago, ca. 1998

Tape: 5 Story: 17 - Photo - Hermene Hartman with 'N'DIGO' managing editor Kai El'Zabar at an expo

Tape: 5 Story: 18 - Photo - Hermene Hartman at a social service facility on the West Side of Chicago, ca. 1990s

Tape: 5 Story: 19 - Photo - Hermene Hartman at a meeting concerning African trade, Chicago

Tape: 5 Story: 20 - Photo - Hermene Hartman with South African President Nelson Mandela and Bob Bennett, Chicago, ca. 1983

Tape: 5 Story: 21 - Photo - Hermene Hartman with John H. Sengstacke and Kai El'Zabar at the first 'N'DIGO' gala, Chicago, 1996

Tape: 5 Story: 22 - Photo - Hermene Hartman with her mother, Mildred Hartman, at an 'N'DIGO' Gala, Chicago, 2000

Tape: 5 Story: 23 - Photo - Hermene Hartman at a luncheon with members of Chicago United, Chicago

Tape: 5 Story: 24 - Photo - Hermene Hartman with President Bill Clinton, New York, 1998

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Photo - Hermene Hartman with 'N'DIGO' special events coordinator Donna Hodge, Chicago, ca. 2000

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Photo - Hermene Hartman at the New York Stock Exchange with Rev. Willie Barrow and Dr. Leon Dingle, New York, ca. 1997

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Photo - Hermene Hartman when she worked for the City Colleges of Chicago, ca. 1970s

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Photo - Hermene Hartman with Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. and Al Bell at an Operation PUSH meeting, Chicago, ca. 1978

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Photo - Hermene Hartman teaches a sociology course, ca. 1970s

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Photo - Hermene Hartman with her father and cousin at her uncle Johnny Hartman's last Chicago concert, ca. 1980s

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Photo - Hermene Hartman is sworn in for the John F. Kennedy Performing Arts Center Advisory Board, Washington, D.C., ca. 1977-1981

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$4

DAStory

1$11

DATitle
Hermene Hartman recalls her participation in the first Black Expo
Hermene Hartman explains how the annual 'N'DIGO' Gala was formed
Transcript
[Rev.] Jesse Jackson [Sr.] , one Saturday after one of the [Operation] Breadbasket [economic advocacy organization] meetings, we were talking and he said, "You know, we need a fair. We need to put some kind of fair together where we can showcase our business people--where we can actually see their goods and their services and their wares. And you know, what we do and we need to show it to ourselves, but we also need to show it to a larger audience." And that Sunday morning, the next morning, went over to his house. We had a meeting and I said, "Jesse, I think we can do a big trade fair and we can have booths and so forth." And I had heard that Mr. Claude Barnett, Etta Moten's [Barnett] husband had put something on like this years ago [in 1940]. It was called, 'The Negro Exposition,' and I did not know Mrs. Barnett but I called and asked her could I come and talk to her about it. And she--that was the first time I met her. And I went over and she told me about the fair and how it was organized and structured and so forth. So I went back to Jesse and said, "What we need to put on is an expo. It will be an exposition." And so we agreed to do it and we got the businessmen to support it and that's how it was born. We went to the Amphitheater and the very first [Black] Expo was put together in six weeks. We had a business component, we had a cultural component, and we had an entertainment component. We went to Motown [Records] and to Charles Avant and got entertainment. But that was the first Expo and it grew. And the way I got into PR [public relations] and learned PR--is again--we were--Jesse and others, we were sitting around Richard Thomas. We were talking and Jesse said, "What if nobody comes?" And that was probably on a Thursday. "What if nobody comes?" And we began to say, "Well how will we let people know about it?" And someone took the schoolteachers and said, "Well we can make it a field trip." And I got the assignment of, "Well you've got to call the media." And I did. Well, when we opened up, I think we had about 50,000 people on our first day. Mayor [Richard J.] Daley had called down to--asked did we have a permit? And Jesse asked me. He said, "Do we have a permit?" And I said, "What is a permit?" I know we did not have a permit 'cause I didn't know we had to have a permit. And Darryl Grisham got involved in whatever permit we needed but Jesse said to [Mayor Richard J.] Daley, "Why don't you come down here and tell the people you're gonna close it." And it was about 50,000 people. People were lined up like you just wouldn't believe. That was the prettiest sight. That was most wonderful sight, is when we opened those doors and people from everywhere came. And the Expo grew as--as we got a little better at it, the entertainment grew to really be top, top drawer--top notch--probably the best entertainment of its kind in America. The cultural component grew. I became the cultural director and really did all of the cultural things and the actual business exposition grew. And I think I did it for maybe about three, four years. One year, I worked the whole year on it and went to Washington [D.C.] and other places just bringing in art and archival kind of things into the Expo. It was filmed. It was in a movie called 'Save The Children'. But that became--that was my first event.$$Well this is--this is very significant really.$$(Simultaneously) It was.$$When you think about it. Wow.$$It was.$We ['N'DIGO' newspaper] were getting calls in the office. Teachers, parents, and students around August to say, "Ms. Hartman, we're going back to school. Can you help us?" Well, I'm not a philanthropic organization, and the answer was, "No, I can't." And it was buy books, help with tuition, travel arrangements to get to college, that kind of thing. But I--I began to hear it, 'cause I--it was like, "Why are you calling us for this, you know?" And I said, "Well you know, we need to do something." Education is still my very--I'm very close to it. It's--it's my heart. And I said, "These kids need some help to go to school." So I said, "Let's have a party. Let's have a real big function, and from the dollars that we raise, we will do some scholarships." That's how the 'N'DIGO' Foundation came about, and that's how our event, that is now the 'N'DIGO' Gala came about. I loved doing special events. I always trying to tell somebody, "You ought to do this. Don't do it like that. Do this." But somebody again said to me, "Why don't you just do it for yourself?" So we did our first gala--and--six years ago at the Terra Museum [of American Art, Chicago, Illinois]. And my idea was to go to various cultural institutions and put on this fabulous wonderful party. Well, we hit the jackpot. We went to Orchestra Hall [Chicago, Illinois], and just had a fabulous reception with Ray Charles [singer/composer]. I wanted to do classic performances. I wanted to do performances with entertainers that you wouldn't see everyday. They weren't ordinary, that were special, either special because of the kind of music that they did, special because they performed rarely, or special because they in themselves were just special. When I first started doing the gala, the entertainer I really wanted was Lena Horne [singer]. I just wanted to expose her to some people that perhaps had not been exposed to her before. Jazz is still a--is--is my heart tug, probably because of my uncle [singer Johnny Hartman]. And I do remember some special performances. So we put this element of classic performances into the gala, and that we would bring only the best entertainers and those that really had a unique quality to them. So the first year, we did Ray Charles with an orchestra, at Orchestra Hall. That was wonderful. The next year, we did Nancy Wilson and Jerry Butler [singers]. Well, that was a treat unto itself, because of the combination. And Jerry Butler, it was his first performance at Orchestra Hall. This year [2001], we will do Natalie Cole [singer]. We will do an R&B [rhythm and blues] at Orchestra Hall. So the performances have been rare. They've been special, and they fit the classical performance. We've grown from five scholarships--this year we will do twenty-two scholarships. So that's grown. And again, it's been out of listening to your readers, listening to your audience, paying attention to what people are saying, and then out of some of the creative things that--that I like to do.

Earl G. Graves, Sr.

Earl G. Graves was raised in the Bedford Stuyvesant section of New York, where he learned hard work and perseverance from his parents, Earl Godwin and Winifred Sealy Graves. After receiving a B.A. in economics from Morgan State University he served two years in the Army, followed by a three year stint as Senator Robert F. Kennedy's administrative assistant. After Kennedy's assassination Graves entered the business arena, where he was to realize unprecedented success.

Since founding Black Enterprise Magazine in 1970, Earl Graves has been named one of the ten most outstanding minority businessmen in the country by the President of the United States, and received the National Award of Excellence in recognition of his achievements in minority business enterprise. Black Enterprise Magazine is recognized as the definitive resource for African American business professionals, entrepreneurs and policy makers in the public and private sectors.

Graves is President and Chief Executive Officer of Earl G. Graves, Ltd., parent corporation for the Earl G. Graves Publishing Company which publishes Black Enterprise Magazine. He also serves as Chairman and CEO of Pepsi-Cola of Washington, D.C., L.P., the largest minority-controlled Pepsi-Cola franchise in the U.S. He is also a General Partner of Egoli Beverages, L.P., the Pepsi-Cola franchise bottler of South Africa.

In 1999, he received the 84th NAACP Spingarn Medal, the highest achievement award for African Americans. He was named one of the Top 100 Business News Luminaries of the Century, and his book "How to Succeed in Business Without Being White" was listed among the New York Times and Wall Street Journals Business Best Sellers. A staunch advocate of higher education, Graves is committed to advancing business education and opportunities for our nation's youth. He has also been recognized for his business leadership and community service by the US Department of Commerce, the City of New York and the National Conference for Community and Justice, among others.

He resided in New York with his late wife of 37 years, Barbara, with whom he had three sons.

Accession Number

A2000.023

Sex

Male

Archival Photo 1
Interview Date

12/18/2000

Last Name

Graves

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

G.

Organizations
Schools

Morgan State University

Erasmus Hall High School

Search Occupation Category
Archival Photo 2
First Name

Earl

Birth City, State, Country

New York

HM ID

GRA01

Favorite Season

Winter

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

Colorado

Favorite Quote

Easy has never been a part of our vocabulary.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

1/9/1935

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Chicken

Short Description

Magazine publishing chief executive Earl G. Graves, Sr. (1935 - ) is the founder of Black Enterprise Magazine and author of New York Times bestseller, How to Succeed in Business Without Being White.

Employment

United States Senate

Black Enterprise Magazine

Earl G. Graves, Ltd

Favorite Color

Purple

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Earl Graves interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Earl Graves's favorite things

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Earl Graves talks about his father's personality

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Earl Graves talks about his father's background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Earl Graves describes his mother's personality

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Earl Graves talks about how his childhood neighborhood in Brooklyn has changed

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Earl Graves recalls trying to improve the community in Bedford-Stuyvesant

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Earl Graves describes the values that come with his West Indian heritage

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Earl Graves talks about his childhood aspirations

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Earl Graves talks about his high school experience

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Earl Graves talks about attending college at Morgan State University

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Earl Graves discusses adjusting to life on campus

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Earl Graves briefly discusses his father's death

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Earl Graves describes his experience in the Armed Forces

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Earl Graves talks about meeting his wife

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Earl Graves talks about his first job in real estate

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Earl Graves describes how he first got involved in politics

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Earl Graves describes his experience working for Senator Robert F. Kennedy

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Earl Graves talks about his study of entrepreneurship in Barbados

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Earl Graves describes the first stages of his business career

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Earl Graves discusses the possibility of publishing 'Black Enterprise' as a newsletter

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Earl Graves talks about his original vision for 'Black Enterprise' magazine

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Earl Graves briefly describes the first issue of 'Black Enterprise' magazine

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Earl Graves describes facing adversity during the early years of 'Black Enterprise' magazine

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Earl Graves talks about the first African Americans on the boards of major corporations

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Earl Graves talks about starting the 'Black Enterprise' 100 list of influential African Americans in business

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Earl Graves talks about the major accomplishments of Black Enterprise magazine

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Earl Graves discusses promoting Black Enterprise in the business world

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Earl Graves talks about outside praise for Black Enterprise magazine

Tape: 3 Story: 12 - Earl Graves briefly discusses the state of African American business

Tape: 3 Story: 13 - Earl Graves talks about being politically active

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Earl Graves talks about his future plans

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Earl Graves discusses the importance of family

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Earl Graves discusses his legacy

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Earl Graves evaluates his success in relation to his parents' wishes

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Photo - Earl Graves showcases 'Black Enterprise' Top 100 [1976]

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Photo - Earl Graves and actor Sidney Poitier receive awards

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Photo - Earl Graves with Nelson Mandela and Randall Robinson

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Photo - Earl Graves's elementary class photo [1947]

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Photo - Earl Graves with his family

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Photo - Earl Graves's parents

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Photo - Earl Graves with his wife, Barbara, and their grandchildren

Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Photo - Earl Graves named to Senator Robert F. Kennedy's staff [1965]

Tape: 4 Story: 13 - Photo - Earl Graves at an entrepreneurs conference [1996]

Tape: 4 Story: 14 - Photo - Earl Graves oses with National Council of Negro Women National President Dorothy Height and First Lady Barbara Bush

Tape: 4 Story: 15 - Photo - Earl Graves supports a Civil Rights march

Tape: 4 Story: 16 - Photo - A cover of 'Black Enterprise' magazine

Tape: 4 Story: 17 - Photo - Earl Graves with President Bill Clinton

Tape: 4 Story: 18 - Photo - Earl Graves shares a moment with businessman Percy C. Sutton

Tape: 4 Story: 19 - Photo - Earl Graves receives an honorary degree from Howard University

Tape: 4 Story: 20 - Photo - Earl Graves poses with First Lady Rosalyn Carter and President Jimmy Carter

Tape: 4 Story: 21 - Photo - Earl Graves shakes hands with President Ronald Reagan

Tape: 4 Story: 22 - Photo - Earl Graves and President Richard Nixon

Tape: 4 Story: 23 - Photo - Earl Graves's wife, Barbara Graves

Tape: 4 Story: 24 - Photo - Earl Graves and his young sons [1970]

Tape: 4 Story: 25 - Photo - Earl Graves and his sons [1975]

Tape: 4 Story: 26 - Photo - Earl Graves and sons at headquarters of Earl G. Graves Ltd. [1990]

Tape: 4 Story: 27 - Photo - Earl Graves Poses with Muhammad Ali

Tape: 4 Story: 28 - Photo - Earl Graves joins celebrity friends at a golf challenge [1995]

Tape: 4 Story: 29 - Photo - Earl Graves addresses the 'Black Enterprise' Top 100 [1976]

Tape: 4 Story: 30 - Photo - Earl Graves and his sons jogging

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$2

DAStory

7$7

DATitle
Earl Graves talks about the first African Americans on the boards of major corporations
Earl Graves talks about his first job in real estate
Transcript
There were people who said the magazine wouldn't make it because where were these executives gonna come from? We were just--we were not yet in the halcyon days of people deciding they needed--everyone needed to have a black working at their corporation. We were not in the days yet where clearly the things had opened up and people said "African Americans ought be in business," which came along in the [President Richard] Nixon era, if you remember when he became President of the United States, and here I am saying "I'm gonna have a magazine that's gonna speak to those people," and the advertisers would say "who are they? Where are they?" Now I vindicated myself by being at the right cutting edge at the time that indeed these people did come along. They were starting to work in service in major corporations. They were starting to work in agencies where historically, African Americans had not been, and they were starting to look at owning their own businesses, whether or not it was Dick Gidron and Al Johnson owning the first Cadillac [automobile] dealerships, one in Chicago [Illinois] and one in New York [New York], and whether or not it was 'Essence' magazine starting, which started the same time we ['Black Enterprise' magazine, 1970] did, whether or not it was BET [Black Entertainment Television] that started somewhat after us [1980] but still in that same whole era, and so those were the business types, and then in addition Chase Manhattan Bank was putting its first African American on the board, and so was Citibank, and so was Ford [Motor Company], and so was General Motors [Corporation], and many of those same people were also working within those companies so I had hit upon some halcyon days, didn't realize it, and thirty years later we're still very much a key factor in what happens to--in the black community.$I had taken a real estate course at Morgan State [University, Baltimore, Maryland] and had been intrigued by it because of the monies that it was explained that you could earn, and I remember it very, very well. There was a professor by the name of Sporgan, a visiting professor, and he laid out what a commission salesman made and what a broker made and what kind of monies they could realize, and he was talking about monies that you could make almost in the sale of two houses that would be equal to what teachers were getting paid or what people working in the government were getting paid at that time and in that area where I thought I could make a mark for myself, and so I said "I think I want to be in real estate," and I didn't know what to do so I looked and went to the Yellow Pages. I believed the ad, which then was not very often on television but looked up where were the real estate offices in Brooklyn [New York] close to my house, and then I somehow met someone who told me about one office, and I went to talk to the owner who was white, and he said he really didn't need a retail sales staff, that they could handle their--the influx of people coming in without having to have a regular staff, but he said he did know of an office that had a large staff of salesman, and maybe I'd be interested in it. Well, the rest is history. It was called Ajax Real Estate, A-J-A-X. I went over to see the owner who was at 1:00 in the day a little bit smashed out of his mind from having consumed more alcohol than he needed to at that time of the day, but he saw me come to the door with my Green Beret [U.S. Army Special Forces] and my commendation ribbons, and he looked at me and said "wow, will you look at that green Christmas tree coming in here," and--but we hit it off right away. They used to call him "Three Martini Jackson." His name was Jackaman actually, but we called him that because most days by 12:00 he'd had three martinis, and three kinds of any kind of liquor drinks will get you messed up--three martinis and you don't really know which way is up, but when I got involved in real estate, did very, very well in my first three months. I sold nine houses which is kind of unheard of, but again I--we were talking about salesmanship and selling, and there is nothing I consider myself much better than or much better at than being a salesperson.