African Americans have long played an important role in shaping the history, present, and future of our country. Although an oppressed race, more and more are starting to understand that they form the backbone of our society. While the nation continues to be rocked by shootings of black teenagers, and the Black Lives Matter movement taking hold globally, the fact is also that things are finally changing for the better. And that is about time as well! African Americans are addressing and breaking through racial inequality in a variety of different ways. This includes the arts, entertainment, music, film, politics, but also business. So who are some of the greatest current African American leaders, who have broken through their racial disadvantage and turned it into an inspirational advantage?
- Ursula M. Burns, Xerox
Xerox is one of the world’s largest document management companies. Ursula Burns became CEO of the company in 2009, the first woman to ever be at the helm of a Fortune 500 company. In 2012, the revenues of Xerox were $22.39 billion and it currently stands at #127 on the Fortune 500 ranking. Burns is a woman that overcame it all: an impoverished background, being African American, and being a woman.
- Kenneth I. Chenault, American Express
In 2001, Chenault became CEO of American Express. He is a native of Long Island and has ensured that the company, which now ranks #95 on the Fortune 500 list, has gone through unprecedented growth. In 2012, the company’s revenues were some $33.90 billion. As CEO, Burns is in charge of some 63,000 employees worldwide.
- Roger W. Ferguson Jr., TIAA-CREF
Ferguson previously served as Vice Chairman on the Federal Reserve System’s Board of Governors. He is a native of Washington DC and became CEO of TIAA-CREF, a retirement provider, in 2008. Today, the company ranks #88 on the Fortune 500 list and it continues to grow.
- Kenneth C. Frazier, Merck & Co., Inc.
Frazier is a native from Philadelphia and he heads Merck, the pharmaceutical giant, a position he took up in 2011. In that same year, the company had a total revenue of $48 billion and ranked #57 on the Fortune 500 list. As CEO, Frazier is responsible for some 86,000 people.
- Ronal Hall, Sr., Bridgewater Interiors
Bridgewater Interiors is the country’s most important supplier of auto parts. Founded in 1998, the company has grown from strength to strength. Hall is from Detroit and, during his time as CEO, he has helped the company grow from strength to strength. In 2011, it generated some $1.6 billion in revenue. Important clients include Ford and General Motors.
- Janice Bryant Howroyd, ACT-1 Group
ACT-1 is a billion dollar enterprise run by African American woman Howroyd from North Carolina. Under her tenure, the company became the largest minority and woman owned employment service company in the country. ACT-1 offers specialized staffing solutions through the country.
- Charles Phillips, Infor
Under the guidance of Charles Phillips Infor has grown from an unknown company to the third largest of its kind, after Oracle and SAP. Before Infor, Phillips was President of Oracle, which makes this success story all the more interesting.