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Juanita Baranco

Lawyer and entrepreneur Juanita Powell Baranco was born in Washington, D.C., on March 19, 1949. Raised in Shreveport, Louisiana, Baranco earned her high school diploma and continued her studies earning her B.S. degree and her J.D. degree from Louisiana State University. Before turning to business, Baranco had a successful law career, serving as assistant attorney general for the state of Georgia. She is the executive vice president and chief operating officer of Baranco Automotive Group, which she co-founded with her husband, Gregory Baranco, in 1978. It was one of the first African American owned car dealerships in the metropolitan Atlanta area. That effort led the Barancos to also owning several other car dealerships including Mercedes-Benz and Acura dealerships with annual sales reaching $100 million dollars.

Baranco’s extensive involvement in education has led her to serve as the chairman of the DeKalb County Education Task Force and as a member of the Georgia State Board of Education from 1985 to 1991. She was appointed by Governor Zell Miller to the Board of Regents and in 1995 became the first African American woman to chair the board. She sits on the Board of Trustees of Clark Atlanta University and also serves on the Board of Directors of Georgia Power Company.

Her business and community activities have won her numerous awards, among which are recognition by the Dow Jones Company for entrepreneurial excellence; the first Trumpet Award from Turner Broadcasting System for entrepreneurial excellence; Entrepreneur of the Year by the Atlanta Business League; the DECCA Award from the Atlantic Business Chronicle, the YWCA’s Women of Achievement Award; and the Atlanta History Center’s Defining Women in Atlanta Award. Baranco has been featured in Essence magazine as one of best businesswomen in Atlanta and was also a finalist for the 2003 Time magazine Quality Dealer Award. She is a member of the American Bar Association and the State Bar Associations of Georgia and Louisiana.

Baranco lives in Atlanta with her husband and children.

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Notre Dame High School

Louisiana State University

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Lawyer and entrepreneur Juanita Baranco (1949 - ) was COO of Baranco Automotive Group, one of the first African American owned car dealerships in the Atlanta area. A former assistant attorney general for the state of Georgia, she was the first African American woman to chair the Georgia Board of Regents, and sat on the board of trustees for Clark Atlanta University.


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Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Juanita Baranco's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Juanita Baranco lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Juanita Baranco describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Juanita Baranco describes her maternal ancestry

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Juanita Baranco describes her mother's upbringing in Mississippi

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Juanita Baranco describes how her parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Juanita Baranco describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Juanita Baranco describes her father's upbringing and aspirations

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Juanita Baranco recalls her paternal uncle, Solomon Powell, Jr.

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Juanita Baranco recalls her parents' devotion to their children

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Juanita Baranco recalls her family's return to Shreveport, Louisiana

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Juanita Baranco describes her earliest childhood memories

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Juanita Baranco describes the role of religion in her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Juanita Baranco describes her memories of holidays from her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Juanita Baranco describes her childhood neighborhood in Shreveport, Louisiana

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Juanita Baranco recalls attending all-black schools in Shreveport, Louisiana

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Juanita Baranco recalls her influential grade school teachers

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Juanita Baranco explains how her father's legal career influenced her

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Juanita Baranco describes Shreveport's Notre Dame High School, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Juanita Baranco describes Shreveport's Notre Dame High School, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Juanita Baranco describes her civil rights activities at Louisiana State University

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Juanita Baranco remembers meeting her husband, Gregory Baranco

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Juanita Baranco recalls moving with her husband to Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Juanita Baranco recalls her parents' response to her marriage

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Juanita Baranco describes her mother's foundation for children with mental disabilities

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Juanita Baranco recalls her decision to attend law school

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Juanita Baranco recalls opening her first car dealership in East Point, Georgia

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Juanita Baranco describes her early career in law and business

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Juanita Baranco describes her involvement in education policy

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Juanita Baranco remembers her tenure on the Georgia Board of Regents

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Juanita Baranco recalls founding First Southern Bank with her husband

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Juanita Baranco recalls challenges she faced as a female business executive

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Juanita Baranco reflects upon her success in the automotive industry

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Juanita Baranco describes her family's involvement in banking and real estate

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Juanita Baranco describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Juanita Baranco remembers closing her car dealership in Decatur, Georgia

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Juanita Baranco reflects on the importance of knowing one's history

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Juanita Baranco describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Juanita Baranco talks about The HistoryMakers project







Juanita Baranco remembers her tenure on the Georgia Board of Regents
Juanita Baranco recalls challenges she faced as a female business executive
And then the Georgia, the board of regents [Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia]?$$For ten years.$$For ten years.$$And (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) And--$$--I chaired that board.$$And you were--$$Not for ten years--$$Okay, but you were the first African American--$$Yes.$$--woman--$$Yes.$$So tell me about that experience.$$Well, it was--I had had a sort of a bad experience on the state board of education [Georgia Board of Education], because I thought I had earned the right--I knew I had earned the right to be chair, but it wasn't happening and they put a lot--my fellow colleagues on the board of education, put a lot of blockages in the way of my becoming chairman. Doing things like voting for this guy for four years and so forth and so on and things like that. So, when I got on the board of regents, I said to myself, I'm gonna play it a little smarter because I really do want to be the first African American female chair of the board of regents. And of course times had changed, you know it's amazing the difference in attitudes over three or four years or certainly over five to ten years. So I played my strategy a little differently and was an excellent board member frankly, as I had been on the state board of education, came with a lot of creative ideas, alternative routes to certification for teachers on the state board of education. And I did the same thing on the board of regents, just came with a lot of creative kinds of concepts. And my mission on the board of regents, particularly when I was chair, was to put the Georgia system on the map because we knew we had a great system but nobody knew about it. So I sat out on a mission to talk with the national education publications and to put us on the map. We hired a brand new chancellor who was phenomenal and we went on the road, a duo, Steven Portch and [HistoryMaker] Juanita Baranco, we did conferences, we spoke everywhere that anybody would listen, and all of a sudden we were able to hire phenomenal professors and people who were the top notch in their fields, and we just were able to attract the best and the brightest among our teaching faculties of our campuses around the system. So it was just a great experience, I became chair, and worked really, really hard and got a lot done for the entire system, not just for African Americans, which we did not leave behind, but we raised our standards for admissions but we still had a lot of accessibility for our students, and just, just had a ball on the state board--on the board of regents, and the state board of education.$I was saying that I had recently received, I was first runner-up as a finalist for the Time Magazine Quality Dealer Award which is really the highest award that a dealer can get. So I received that award in 2002 and my mother [Evelyn Evans Powell] had just passed and it was a pretty emotional time for me, but they--it was a very intense kind of a questionnaire. You had to talk about everything you'd ever done in life. And when I sort of sat back and read it almost saddened me to look at everything I had actually done because you know, you add into that the soccer games and the baseball, basketball, football, all the things, ballet, jazz, tap dance, gymnastics, swimming, four kids and four on swimming teams and you just wonder, well how in the world, who is that woman, you know, I surely--not I (laughter). And then you realize it really was you that had--that you've done all of that and it'll sort of make you sit up and take notice and, you know, I have no regrets, let me hasten to add that, I have no regrets. But I see why there's sort of a backlash from young women now who may not want to take on all of that. I mean, we really sort of bought into, if you will, the superwoman myth. And I can bring home the bacon and fry it up in the pan and we can, but I think that what we've learned from all that, certainly what I've learned and what I try and teach is that you have to make choices. You have to have priorities and what--and have to understand what those priorities are and what's important to you. And it's important not to try and be superwoman. Because we, I, and, a lot of women like me were out there and we were in male dominated fields. There is no more male dominated field than the car business and that's my chosen field. And so you really fight some battles along the way, you know. The employees who disrespect you, who don't respect you and those are two different things, the employees that just feel that you're too dumb and too stupid and you're not gonna get it, you know. And they come in and they try to, you know, bamboozle you and think that they compliment you on what you're wearing that you're gonna just roll over and not notice that they're stealing you blind (laughter), you know. And so you've been--when all is said and done you go through a lot to get to this point in development and I think it's important, at least I feel that one of the most important things I do is try to mentor young women. Because it is a tough business, it's a tough world out there for women. And when I see this sort of retreatment on the part of women saying, "We really don't wanna do all that." And even from my own daughters in some instances, you wanna say, "Well look, there are some rewards and it is worth it." And I think it's incumbent upon every generation to take the mantle and do what they're supposed to do in their, you know, in the--during the Civil Rights Movement we did what we had to do, we marched and we picketed, you know. We had to open some doors in Corporate America and in these male dominated fields. We had to do that and now the next generation, their task is to move us to the next level. To be the ones who are opening the doors, if you will, you know. They've got to become the decision makers, the CEOs, they've gotta take, grab that mantle and be brave enough and bold enough and to get it done 'cause we're smart enough already, okay (laughter).