Carol L. Cook
Autobiographies can be used for many different purposes. In one form, the subjects are defined by the causes that they undertake. I would like to study the autobiography of John H. Johnson, a Black man who rose from the welfare rolls of the depression to become the most successful Black businessman in American history. John Johnson founded EBONY, JET, AND EM magazines. He is now a member of the FORBES 400. In 1918, John H. Johnson was born in a tin-roofed house near the river levees in Arkansas City, Arkansas. His determined mother left everything behind to take the train north to Chicago, because that is where her son could get a high school education. His family spent some time on welfare before John was able to go after his dreams with unstoppable energy.
John Johnson was convinced that Black Americans needed positive images to fulfill their potential. And so, he created the magazine, EBONY. He believed then and still believes that you have to change images before you can change acts and institutions. John believes that hard work, strong family support, and a healthy and sound mind and body are needed to succeed.
I want to study the ascent of this Black man to the heights of big business. It appears that in the U.S. Economy, few Black American Businessmen have emerged to challenge white domination. On the other hand, other ethnic groups established some credit associations that immigrants from their group could use. Want of access to this traditional institution has placed all but a handful of American Blacks at a marked disadvantage. Southern-born Blacks who migrated to northern cities were not in a position to organize similar groups. It has also been suggested that another reason that Blacks have not advanced in business is the lack of role models available for them. In addition, as Southern Blacks moved north, they were unable to establish business organizations based on their ethnic interests or regional loyalties.
In general, urban Black communities had to depend on voluntary organizations and the church as the foundation of their social structure, because Old World ties of region, tribe and extended kinship had been torn up by slavery, and had not been subsequently regenerated on a new basis. Thus, in laying foundation for business development, urban Black communities had to employ voluntary organizations. Two organizations were established: The National Urban League devoted itself to the social welfare of urban Blacks; The National Business League oversaw the development of Black-owned business. Both the Business League and the Urban League were chronically unable to create solidarity on a voluntary basis.
Although Booker T. Washington founded the National Negro Business League to encourage more and more Black people to enter business, its growth did not increase the proportion of Blacks in business. Instead of mutual aid, the Business League touted self-interested individualism.
Caste subordination of Blacks involved shared Black-white conceptions of the proper place of Blacks in a white society. This view did not assign to Blacks a separate ethnic honor but rather deprived them of any valued ethnic identity. So long as these conceptions were shared, there was obviously no room for social conflict between Blacks and whites. But this heritage carried with it manifest disadvantages in the urban North.
I would like to use the life of John Johnson as the main role model for the development of a successful businessman. However, I would like to review the lives of such famous business people as Mary McLeod Bethune, Booker T. Washington and Jake Simmons, Jr., a Fortune 500 oilman to see what pattern emerges in all of their lives. As I review these lives, I am going to point out the role models that each person followed in his/her search for success. I will also compare how each person handled the lack of ethnic credit associations.
Most important, I will explore the ways that each person dealt with case subordination and prejudice. It is also vital to observe the character traits that led each person to great achievement.