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Carole Copeland Thomas

Motivational speaker and business consultant Carole Copeland Thomas was born on August 21, 1953 in Detroit, Michigan. Thomas graduated from Cass Technical High School in Detroit, Michigan, and went on to earn her B.A. degree in music, with honors, from Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia in 1975. Thomas enrolled at Northeastern University, in Boston, Massachusetts, on a Martin Luther King, Jr. academic fellowship, earning her M.B.A. degree in 1985.

Thomas began her career working in sales for Mary Kay Cosmetics, eventually becoming an independent sales director in 1975. Thomas moved to Boston with her then husband and family, working for the Bank of New England and The Gillette Company as an assistant product manager. Thomas founded Temporary Solutions, a temporary employment agency, in 1987. By 1989, the agency had grown into a full service speaking, training, and facilitation company called C. Thomas and Associates, specializing in diversity, multicultural, leadership, and empowerment issues. Thomas served as a town coordinator for Governor Deval Patrick’s 2006 campaign. In 2008, Thomas started The Multicultural Symposium Series (MSS), a face to face, online, and on the air initiative designed to advance the cause of multiculturalism. She hosted the weekly radio talk show “Focus on Empowerment” on Boston’s WILD 1090 AM radio, and subsequently on WBNW 1120 AM and Internet radio, from 2003 to 2009. Thomas has spoken at the Federal Highway Administration, SHRM, Hewlett Packard, Verizon, and Cargill, and Monster.com.

Thomas authored several books, including 21 Ways To Bring Multiculturalism To Your Job Your Home and Your Community and Real Women, Real Issues: Positive Collaborations for Business Success. She also served as the executive coach for the Essence Magazine Leadership Summit. Thomas became a life member of the National Black MBA Association in 1986, serving as president of the Boston Chapter, national vice chair, and a co-founder of the Leaders of Tomorrow program. She served as the Tri State coordinator for Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, and as the chair of the Multicultural Committee for the Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau. Thomas also served as an adjunct professor at Bentley University.

Thomas has three children: Lorna, Michelle, and the late Mickarl, as well as two grandchildren, Julianna and Gabrielle.

Carole Copeland Thomas was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on October 18, 2016.

Accession Number

A2016.104

Sex

Female

Interview Date

10/18/2016 |and| 11/15/2018

Last Name

Thomas

Maker Category
Schools

Emory University

Northeastern University

Cass Technical High School

Beaubien Middle School

Vandenberg Elementary School

George N. Brady Elementary School

First Name

Carole Copeland

Birth City, State, Country

Detroit

HM ID

THO25

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Michigan

Favorite Vacation Destination

Mombasa, Kenya

Favorite Quote

Those Who Cannot Learn From History Are Doomed To Repeat It.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Massachusetts

Birth Date

8/21/1953

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Boston

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Shrimp

Short Description

Motivational speaker and business consultant Carole Copeland Thomas (1953 – ) founded the temporary employment agency Temporary Solutions in 1987, which grew into C. Thomas and Associates, a full service speaking, training, and facilitation company.

Employment

C Thomas & Associates

Mary Kay Inc

Gillette

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Carole Copeland Thomas' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Carole Copeland Thomas lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Carole Copeland Thomas describes her mother's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Carole Copeland Thomas describes her mother's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Carole Copeland Thomas describes her mother's family background, pt. 3

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Carole Copeland Thomas remembers her maternal grandfather

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Carole Copeland Thomas talks about her mother's upbringing in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Carole Copeland Thomas describes her father's family background

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Carole Copeland Thomas talks about her father's education

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Carole Copeland Thomas describes her father experiences as a Tuskegee Airman

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Carole Copeland Thomas describes how her parents met

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Carole Copeland Thomas remembers her parent's careers

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Carole Copeland Thomas talks about her father's relocation to Ghana

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Carole Copeland Thomas describes her parents' personalities and who she takes after

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Carole Copeland Thomas talks about her brother

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Carole Copeland Thomas describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Carole Copeland Thomas describes her neighborhood in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Carole Copeland Thomas describes her schooling in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Carole Copeland Thomas describes her childhood activities

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Carole Copeland Thomas remembers the riots in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Carole Copeland Thomas talks about the emergence of gangs in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Carole Copeland Thomas describes the arts program at Cass Technical High School in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Carole Copeland Thomas remembers her friends from Cass Technical High School

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Carole Copeland Thomas talks about her early aspirations

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Carole Copeland Thomas describes her experiences at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Carole Copeland Thomas recalls the prevalence of racial terrorism in Georgia during the 1970s

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Carole Copeland Thomas remembers Juanita Jones Abernathy

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Carole Copeland Thomas describes her experiences as a saleswoman for Mary Kay Inc.

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Carole Copeland Thomas remembers moving to Norristown, Pennsylvania

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Carole Copeland Thomas remembers her husband's transfer to Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Carole Copeland Thomas recalls buying a home in Middleton, Massachusetts

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Carole Copeland Thomas recalls her M.B.A. degree from Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Carole Copeland Thomas talks about the community support for her graduate education

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Carole Copeland Thomas describes her experiences at The Gillette Company

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Carole Copeland Thomas talks about the benefits of an M.B.A. degree

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$4

DAStory

4$5

DATitle
Carole Copeland Thomas describes her mother's family background, pt. 2
Carole Thomas Copeland recalls her M.B.A. degree from Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts
Transcript
My mother's mother's [Nora Charleston] side of the family, that is the Branch [ph.] family. I don't know as much about them and I'll go back and give you some information about the Gaines side of the family, but the Branch side of the family also from Georgia, including the Savannah, Georgia area, other parts of, of Georgia. My grandmother, my great-grandmother who I did not know because she had passed away on my mother's side was biracial and grew up in Hamilton, Georgia. Her father was the plantation owner and her mother was a slave woman and this man had two sets of families from what I have been told and my grandmother was the black side of the family and he probably had white children also, so that's the lineage I know. I don't know much about that side of the family, but that's the Branch side of the family. One of the Branch members though, the Batchelor-Branch family, one of my distant cousins on the same side of that family who now lives in Detroit [Michigan], was the first African American admitted into the Daughters of the American Revolution because her mother's side of the family, she is related to me on her father's side, her mother's could trace their roots back to the Revolutionary time and the Pilgrims time and that constituted her being allowed to be part of the DAR. She was the first black member probably in the late '70s [1970s], early '80s [1980s].$$So she had roots that (simultaneous)--?$$(Simultaneous) Karen, Karen Batchelor [Karen Batchelor Farmer] is her name.$$Okay.$$Her name is Karen Batchelor, so--$$Karen Batchelor had roots that went all the way back to--$$To the--$$--to the settlement of Massachusetts--$$Correct.$$--to the Pilgrims or Puritans--$$Correct.$$--of the 1600s?$$Correct, yes, yeah.$$So here we are in Massachusetts, here we are full circle--$$(Laughter) Right.$$--too.$$Yes, in a way, yeah you can say that.$$Okay, so--$$So she, that's the Batchelor side of the family and that was her mother's mother's side of the family, this is my grandmother, my again, maternal.$$This is all of your father's of your father's side.$$No, this is all on my mother's [Gwendolyn Charleston Copeland] side of the family.$$Your--okay, okay.$$All on my mother's side.$$The maternal side of your mother's side of the family?$$Now I'm talking about the maternal side of my mother's side. The paternal side is the, the family that had the six hundred acres of land--$$Oh, okay.$$--the Gaines family, G-A-I-N-E-S.$$Okay, understood.$$Right.$$That's the paternal side, okay.$$Right. One aspect of the Gaines family, there are lots of things, with the Gaines family were sort of connected to the Thurgood Marshall family because we have roots in Baltimore [Maryland], that's another story. We, our family owned a bank in Baltimore that just closed about five years ago, five or six years ago, one of those little small community banks, Ideal Savings Bank [Ideal Federal Savings Bank], I believe that was the name of it and in 1865, I believe that's the year, January, 1865 as Sherman [William Tecumseh Sherman] was burning down Georgia and he decided not to burn Savannah, my, one of my ancestors, Reverend William Gaines was actually in a meeting that was recorded with other leading black people in Savannah and they met with General Sherman to discuss the outcome of blacks once they were going to be freed. I can pull that up online and show it to you, so it's, it's, it's Google searchable. But there were about nineteen leaders and he was one of them, he represented the ministerial community, the minister in the community, in Savannah and that was--$$Was he A.M.E. [African Methodist Episcopal] as well or--?$$He was not--he was part of the Methodist church because the A.M.E. church didn't get to the South until after the Civil War, for obvious reasons. So it started--the A.M.E. church was started in Philadelphia [Pennsylvania] by freed blacks and did not and then affiliated with the Methodist Episcopal churches in the South after the Civil War.$$The southern Methodists--$$Right.$$--because they had split off because of slavery, yeah.$$Right, right. So that group lined up with the A.M.E. church after the Civil War, so Reverend Gaines was part of the Methodist Episcopal church I believe which ultimately became the, the A.M.E. church.$Now you pursued an M.B.A. from Northeastern [Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts] and you entered the program in 1983, what prompted that--?$$I was still in Mary Kay [Mary Kay Inc.], but I was looking beyond Mary Kay. I didn't have the kind of success that some of my colleagues had had, certainly didn't have the success that Juanita Abernathy [Juanita Jones Abernathy] had had or Lenny Woods [ph.], or some of the other great black directors and then national sales directors, and, and I wanted to go back to school and business was an area that I wanted to pursue. I just didn't have the money to go back to school. Dr. Virgil Wood [Virgil A. Wood], I don't know if you've interviewed him, another great civil rights leader, minister, Baptist preacher, still living, was a friend of my husband's [Copeland Thomas' ex-husband, Mickarl Thomas, Sr.] at that time and was also the dean of the African American Institute [John D. O'Bryant African-American Institute] at Northeastern, I talked with him and, and said I'd love to go back to school, Northeastern is a school I would certainly like to look at, I don't have the money (laughter) tuition wise to go to school and he said, "You, you know there are opportunities to get a scholarship, so apply," which I did. I did not do well on my GMAT [Graduate Management Admission Test] exams and they recommended I take them over again. I did not take them over again, but I was accepted to Northeastern and I won a full scholarship, so I won a Martin Luther King scholarship [Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Graduate Fellowship Program] to pay for everything except my books at Northeastern and that's how I was able to go back to school in 1983.$$Okay and at, at this juncture you're, you've really switched gears, you've gone into business right and not pursuing voice any longer--$$No.$$--singing career?$$No, no, I'm, I'm fully engaged in the business world (laughter).$$Okay, all right, well who were some of your professors at Northeastern and what did you learn there?$$It was a two year rigorous program and I guess one professor who comes to mind is Jonathan Pond who was one of my accounting professors I believe, very colorful person, but a very enthusiastic person, one-- somebody I could relate to. He also did a little bit of TV work. He does TV work now if he's still--I'm sure he's still in the area, he would do little segments about saving money or you know, building your wealth, or those kinds of things and that I think as a result of the work he did at Northeastern, but he was just a very encouraging person and I, I had some tough classes. I had, I, I, I failed two classes. My first year, my first semester, I failed a statistics class and an accounting class, failed them flat and remember I'd been a very good student. I'd never failed anything before, this was the first time I had ever failed in life and that drew me closer to the black students who were on that campus, other graduate students in the program; Willie Shellman who is a friend to this day, he is president of the Tuskegee Airmen New England Chapter [New England Chapter Tuskegee Airmen, Inc.] and others who took me under their wing and they said, "You're doing it wrong," (laughter). "First you all have to collaborate, you need to take this teacher, don't take that one, he's racist, take this one." So they schooled me in terms of who to take. There was a loose affiliation of the black students and they didn't really have an association per se, but it was like the forerunner of the I guess, the student version of the National Black MBA Association of which I became a part of immediately after college, after graduate school, but these students and African students who were my classmates from Mali, I had two African students who I was in school with and I used to bring them to my house, cook for them and we'd sit at the dining room table in Middleton [Massachusetts] and study. So I learned how to collaborate and work with others so that I could move ahead. As I moved ahead they moved ahead also and I didn't have to do that in college because I was, it was more of an independent thrust and work that I did independently, but in graduate school is where I really learned how to work as a team and work in a team and realize that my success was not necessarily based on just me, it was based on me collaborating with other people. So between the African students, the Jamaican students, a Seventh-day Adventists, I remember--oh he was brilliant. He was actually one time teaching, I can't think of his name right now, but he was teaching the class and the teacher was mesmerized and said, "Wait, wait a minute, I'm teaching this class," (laughter). So I had some brilliant people, a lot of guys, who were my friends and we helped each other to get through.$$Okay.$$Also, Dr. Bill Tita [William Tiga Tita], T-I-T-A, an African American from Africa originally, he is still living and he was my advisor in grad school and so I also give him credit.