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SEGMENT

New Documentary ‘Boss’ Explores Black Business in America

The PBS film features stories from a number of African-American entrepreneurs, including several Chicagoans who played key roles in various industries, from journalist Ida B. Wells to publisher John H. Johnson.

AIRED: 4/23/2019 | 00:10:52
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THERE IS A NEW PBS DOCUMENTARY ON THE HISTORY OF BUSINESS AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP IN THE AFRICAN-AMERICAN COMMUNITY OVER THE LAST 150 YEARS.

LET'S TAKE A LOOK.

AFRICAN-AMERICAN BUSINESS IS AN ESSENTIAL PART OF THIS IDEAL OF BLACK LIBERATION.

RESILIENCE, PRACTICALITY, STRATEGIC THINKING.

THESE ARE THE QUALITIES THAT BUSINESS LEADERS HAVE.

BUT SOMETIMES ONLY EMERGE UNDER THE MOST STRESSFUL AND SOMETIMES UNFAIR CIRCUMSTANCES.

IN THE TRADITION OF MAKING YOUR WAY OUT OF NO WAY, BLACK ENTREPRENEURS WERE FORCED TO SELL TO THEIR OWN COMMUNITY.

BUT THOSE BUSINESSES ALLOWED THEM TO BECOME ECONOMICALLY INDEPENDENT.

WHEREVER WE ARE WE DID NOT GET THERE BY OURSELVES.

AND BECAUSE WE DID NOT GET THERE BY OURSELVES, WE HAVE AN OBLIGATION TO HELP THOSE WHO NEED US.

'BOSS: THE BLACK EXPERIENCE IN BUSINESS' HITS THE HIGHS AND LOWS OF THE PEOPLE THAT CREATED AND LED BLACK BUSINESSES.

JOINING US ARE STANLEY NELSON THE PRODUCER AND DIRECTOR OF 'BOSS: THE BLACK EXPERIENCE IN BUSINESS' HE IS A PEDRO PEABODY FELLOW NELSON RECEIVED THE NATIONAL MEDAL IN THE HUMANITIES FROM PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA.

JOHN W. ROGERS, JR. CHAIRMAN C.E.O. AND CHIEF INVESTMENT OFFICER OF AERIAL INVESTMENTS HE IS FEATURED IN BOSS IN PART FOR GROWING HIS COMPANY FROM 2, TO 101 EMPLOYEES WITH 11 BILLION IN ASSETS AND PRODUCTS.

AND JULIEANNA RICHARDSON THE FOUNDER OF THE HISTORY MAKERS, THE LARGEST NATIONAL COLLECTION OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN VIDEO ORAL HISTORIES ON RECORD.

SHE IS A CO-EXECUTIVE PRODUCER OF BOSS.

WELCOME ALL OF YOU TO 'CHICAGO TONIGHT'.

THANK YOU.

THIS IS A STORY OF AFRICAN-AMERICANS BECOMING THE BOSS IN BUSINESS AND ONE OF THE BIGGEST BLACK BUSINESSES IN CHICAGO JOHNSON PUBLISHING FILED FOR BANKRUPTCY EARLIER THIS MONTH.

JOHN, JOHNSON WAS PART OF THIS TRADITION OF BLACK JOURNALISTS AND THE MISSION IN TERMS OF EBONY WAS TO HAVE A POSITIVE FOCUS ON THE EXPERIENCES OF PEOPLE OF AFRICAN DESCENT.

IT REPRESENTS PRIDE IN BLACK HERITAGE AND BUILD WHOLESOME IMAGES OF BLACK PEOPLE.

THERE WERE NO PUBLICATIONS BUILDING THE BLACK IMAGE.

MY FATHERED LOOKED AT MAGAZINES LIKE LIFE AND LOOK MAGAZINE AT THE TIME AND SAW THAT THEY WERE BIG AND GLOSSY AND HAD GREAT PHOTOS AND GREAT WRITING.

HE MADE THE ASSUMPTION THAT IF THIS WORKS IN THIS MARKET WHY CAN'T THIS WORK AND BE GOOD ENOUGH FOR THE AFRICAN-AMERICAN MARKET?

AND STANLEY NELSON LET'S START WITH YOU.

IN COVERING JOHNSON PUBLISHING AND IMPACT IN THE BLACK COMMUNITY AS WELL AS IT BEING PART OF A BLACK PRESS HOW BIG OF A LOSS DO YOU SEE THIS?

IT IS A HUGE LOSS.

BUT ONE THING THAT IS HAPPENING IS THE WHOLE PUBLISHING INDUSTRY HAS CHANGED.

SO IT IS NOT ANY ONE THING THAT LED TO JOHNSON PUBLICATIONS BEING WHERE IT IS.

WE DON'T READ PAPER MAGAZINES.

I GET A NEWSPAPER DELIVERED EVERY MORNING AND MY WIFE IS LIKE WHY?

BECAUSE SHE IS ON HER TABLET THE NIGHT BEFORE AND IT'S GOT THE NEWS BEFORE I GET IT.

I THINK THAT PUBLISHING HAS CHANGED.

AND JOHNSON PUBLICATIONS IS REALLY JUST A PART OF THAT CHANGE.

JULIEANNA RICHARDSON, WHAT IS YOUR REACTION TO JOHNSON PUBLISHING?

I'M REALLY SAD ABOUT IT.

ON SO MANY DIFFERENT LEVELS BUT I WANT TO SAY THAT LINDA AND JOHNSON PUBLISHING PROVIDED SOME OF THE FOOTAGE FOR THE FILM BOSS.

BUT IT IS -- I'M AS INTERESTED -- FIRST OF ALL, JOHNSON PUBLISHING WAS AN INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS.

AND WHEN YOU THINK OF ITS REACH AND EXTENT TO ALL CORNERS OF THE WORLD AND THAT WAS CREATED HERE IN CHICAGO, AND CHICAGO REALLY IN MANY WAYS EARL GRAVES THE 230U7D EVER OF -- FOUNDER OF BLACK ENTERPRISE SAID THERE ARE NO BLACK BUSINESS PEOPLE LIKE THE PEOPLE IN CHICAGO.

HE WAS REFERENCING JOHNSON.

AND AMONG THE STORIES THAT YOU TELL HOW DID YOU DECIDE WHICH ONES TO KEEP?

I THINK IT WAS IMPORTANT STANLEY WILL ANSWER THAT BUT I THINK THAT THE WHOLE THING REALLY AT THE BEGINNING WAS TO LOOK AT THE TRAJECTORY.

WE ARE OFTEN SEEING BLACKS ARE JUST COMING INTO BUSINESS BUT I WANT PEOPLE TO SEE THAT FROM THE BEGINNING STARTING BACK IN THE 1800'S THAT BLACKS HAVE BEEN VERY ENTREPRENEURIAL AND VERY INVOLVED IN BUSINESS.

IT JUST HAVE A TRAJECTORY AS WE MOVE ON.

AND ONE OF THE STORIES THAT YOU TELL IS THAT OF JOHN W.

ROGERS, JR. CHICAGO'S OWN.

LET'S TAKE A LOOK AT THAT.

WHEN THE SMOKE CLEARED IN THE EARLY MORNING OF JUNE 1ST, 1921, BLACK WALL STREET LAY IN RUINS.

THIS IS, BY FAR, THE LARGEST SINGLE INCIDENT RACIAL VIOLENCE IN ALL OF AMERICAN HISTORY.

WHAT CANNOT BE DENIED WAS THE LOSS.

AND THE LOSS THAT THESE BUSINESS OWNERS SUFFERED.

THIS WAS CAPITAL THAT THEY WOULD NEVER EVER GET BACK NOR THEIR DESCENDANTS AS WELL.

AMONG THOSE WHO LOST EVERYTHING WAS JB STRATFORD ONE OF THE MOST SUCCESSFUL BLACK BUSINESS PEOPLE IN TULSA.

AFTER HE WAS WRONGFULLY ACCUSED OF INCITING THE RIOT, STRATFORD FLED TO CHICAGO.

JB STRATFORD WAS MY GREAT GRANDFATHER.

HIS HOTEL WAS BURNED TO THE GROUND DURING THE TULSA RACE RIOTS AND MOM USED TO ALWAYS TALK ABOUT WHAT A GREAT ENTREPRENEUR HE HAD BEEN.

AND ALL OF US IN OUR FAMILY FEEL VERY, VERY STRONGLY THAT OUR WEALTH WAS TAKEN AWAY DURING THOSE TULSA RACE RIOTS.

JOHN W. ROGERS, JR. MIGHT SAY BUSINESS IS IN YOUR BLOOD.

HOW DID YOU AND YOUR FAMILY TURN AROUND THAT DIFFICULTY INTO THE SUCCESS THAT YOU SEE TODAY?

I THINK WE CREATED A SENSE THAT OUR FAMILY IS A FAMILY OF PIONEERS.

A FAMILY OF ENTREPRENEURS.

MY MOM ENDED UP BEING THE FIRST AFRICAN-AMERICAN WOMAN TO GRADUATE FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO LAW SCHOOL AND THE FIRST BLACK WOMAN TO APPEAR BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT AND STARTED HER OWN LEGAL BUSINESS AND WAS A REALLY SUCCESSFUL ENTREPRENEUR BUILT A TERRIFIC LEGAL PRACTICE.

SO I GREW UP WATCHING MY MOM AND MY DAD AS ENTREPRENEURS BUILDING A SMALL BUSINESS AND IT WAS AN INSPIRATION TO BE MY OWN BOSS AND BUILD A BUSINESS TO BE SUSTAINED SUSTAINED FROM ONE GENERATION TO ANOTHER GENERATION.

AND IF THE FILM WE SEE PEOPLE GIVING BACK.

WHY IS THAT IMPORTANT TO GIVE BACK TO THE COMMUNITY?

WELL, I THINK SO MANY PEOPLE SACRIFICE SO MUCH TO GET THESE DOORS OPEN FOR US.

Dr. KING, REVEREND JACKSON, JOHN LEWIS, THE LIST OF FOLKS.

AND THE PIONEERS THAT CAME BEFORE US.

AND JOHN JOHNSON AND WE HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY TO FIGHT FOR EACH OTHER AND GIVE EVERYONE THE OPPORTUNITY TO PARTICIPATE IN OUR DEMOCRACY.

THERE HAVE BEEN BARRIERS TO BLACK BUSINESS LEADERS IT'S IMPORTANT FOR US TO GET DOORS OPEN AND EXPOSED TO THE PARTS OF THE ECONOMY WHERE THE WEALTH AND JOBS ARE BEING CREATED TODAY.

STANLEY NELSON YOU HAVE DOCUMENTED A LOT OF STORIES OF THE BLACK EXPERIENCE HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO DOCUMENT ANY STORY BUT PARTICULARLY THE BLACKS IN BUSINESS STORY?

I THINK IT'S INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT.

I DON'T THINK PEOPLE ARE LINING UP TO TELL THE STORY.

WHEN JULIEANNA RICHARDSON APPROACHED ME, I WAS LIKE YEAH, WOW.

BECAUSE I DON'T THINK IF WE HAD NOT TOLD THE STORY I DON'T THINK THE STORY WOULD BE TOLD.

AND IT WASN'T AN EASY STORY TO TELL.

WE COVER 150 YEARS OF BLACK ENTREPRENEURSHIP.

IN TWO HOURS BUT IT WASN'T AN EASY STORY BUT IT HAD TO BE TOLD IT IS AN IMPORTANT STORY.

IT'S IMPORTANT THAT WE UNDERSTAND HOW PEOPLE HAVE STRUGGLED FOR 150 YEARS TO START BUSINESSES. TO KEEP BUSINESSES ALIVE.

AND THE STRUGGLES THAT THE THEY HAVE.

THE THINGS THEY HAD TO PUT UP WITH TO STAY IN BUSINESS.

THIS IS A RICH PORTRAIT OF THE SUCCESSES AND THE DIFFICULTIES THAT BLACK BUSINESSES FACED OVER HISTORY.

AND TODAY, BEING A BOSS, A BLACK BOSS IT IS NOT ALL SMOOTH SAILING WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES TODAY?

I THINK ONE OF THE BIG CHALLENGES FOR US IS THAT SO MANY BIG COMPANIES AND SO MANY BIG NON-PROFITS AND UNIVERSITIES AND MUSEUMS, SAY THEY CARE ABOUT DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION AND WANT TO WORK WITH MINORITY-OWNED BUSINESSES BUT WE FIND MORE AND MORE OFTEN IT'S A SASHA CA RAID.

CHARADE.

OF THE I THINK WE HAVE TO FIGHT FOR EACH OTHER AND HOLD PEOPLE ACCOUNTABLE TO OPEN UP THE DOORS AND GIVE US THE FULL CHANCE TO PARTICIPATE FULLY.

AS REVEREND JACKSON SAYS BASEBALL BECAME A BETTER SPORT WHEN WE WERE ALLOWED TO PLAY AFTER JACKIE ROBINSON AND WILLIE MAYS AND WE WANT TO PARTICIPATE IN OUR ECONOMY IN THE SAME WAY AND CONTRIBUTE TO OUR SOCIETY BECAUSE WE CAN BE GREAT ENTREPRENEURS, TOO.

AND JULIEANNA RICHARDSON WE ARE JUST ABOUT OUT OF TIME, BUT WHAT DO YOU WANT PEOPLE TO TAKE AWAY FROM THE FILM?

I WANT PEOPLE TO UNDERSTAND THERE'S BEEN A LONGTIME THAT BLACKS HAVE BEEN IN BUSINESS AND THIS IS ABSOLUTELY IMPORTANT THAT WE DOCUMENT THIS.

AND I THINK IT'S PRETTY PROFOUND BECAUSE BLACK PEOPLE STARTED WITH PROPERTY AND WE MADE THE TRANSITION FROM GENERATING REVENUE AND SUPPORTING OUR COMMUNITIES.

AND THAT IS A PROFOUND STORY WHEN YOU THINK OF IT IN THE LONG TRAJECTORY OF ITS HISTORY.

JULIEANNA RICHARDSON, JOHN W.

ROGERS, JR. AND STANLEY NELSON THANK YOU FOR JOINING US.

AGAIN, THE DOCUMENTARY IS