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Earl Graves Sr.
*On this date, in 1935, Earl G. Graves was born. He was a Black businessman, entrepreneur, and activist.
Earl Gilbert Graves is from Brooklyn, New York; his parents were Earl Godwin Graves and Winifred Sealy Graves, long-time West Indian residents of the Bedford-Stuyvesant area. His father was a role model and mentor whose economic circumstances reduced his plans for the future. The elder Graves was the only Black in his graduating class at Erasmus High school, the second oldest school in America, and young Graves would be one of only two Blacks when he graduated years later.
After high school where he was a track star and used his athletic skills to help with tuition by also working as a lifeguard while attending Morgan State University as a scholarship student. While there, he also operated several campus businesses and joined various campus organizations. Graves graduated in 1958 with a B.A. degree in economics and as an ROTC member. He has commissioned a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army, completed the Airborne Ranger's School, and was a captain with the Green Berets. In 1962 he worked as a narcotics agent with the U.S. Treasury Department.
Graves sold and developed real estate, and in 1966 he was hired as an administrative assistant on the staff of Senator Robert F. Kennedy. His job was to plan and supervise events. As traumatic as Kennedy's death was in 1968, it also meant that Graves no longer had a job. After a short period, he formed Earl G. Graves Associates, a management consulting firm to advise corporations on urban affairs and economic development.
He also wanted to contribute to the economic development of Black America. The momentum for addressing this need was Grave’s journey to Fayette, Mississippi, to work on the mayoral campaign for Charles Evers, brother of slain NAACP leader Medgar Evers. After Evers was elected as the city's first Black mayor in 1969, he used his money and influence to improve many of the town's Black communities. Graves then planned a strategy to tap into the Nixon Administration's effort to bring Blacks into the country's economic development programs. Graves knew the right time to plan, develop, and produce a monthly periodical devoted to news, commentary, and articles for Blacks interested in business.
After receiving a Ford Foundation grant to study Black-owned businesses in Caribbean countries, he narrowed his focus. He borrowed $150,000 from the Manhattan Capital Corporation of Chase Manhattan Bank, which, in turn, bought 25 percent of the company as equity. In 1970, Graves presented the prospective lenders with a working draft of Black Enterprise. He was a true entrepreneur, businessman, and corporate executive whose lifestyle matched his stellar achievements.
Graves is the author of How to Succeed in Business Without Being White: Straight Talk on Making It in America, 1997. He was one of the most influential Black business leaders in the country. Earl Graves Sr. Died on April 6th, 2020.