Wisdom from Black Business Leaders

Wisdom from Black Business Leaders

February 22, 2023

One of the special things about Black History Month is the opportunity it provides for Black voices to be heard and respected in a way that isn’t always the norm at other times of the year.

It’s a sad fact that much of the wisdom and many of the accomplishments of Black business leaders are hidden from view by the filter of dominant white culture.

As our way of celebrating Black History Month, we’re sharing ten quotes by Black business leaders across the generations. We hope that you will be inspired by their wisdom and their example.


“I had to make my own living and my own opportunity. But I made it! Don’t sit down and wait for the opportunities to come. Get up and make them.”

Madam C.J. Walker, American entrepreneur, philanthropist, political and social activist. Recorded as the first female self-made millionaire in America.


“If you wake up deciding what you want to give versus what you’re going to get, you become a more successful person. In other words, if you want to make money, you have to help someone else make money.”

Russell Simmons, American entrepreneur, record executive, writer, film producer, Chairman and CEO of Rush Communications


“When you undervalue what you do, the world will undervalue who you are.”

Oprah Winfrey, Founder and CEO, OWN Network, philanthropist, talk show host


“It’s up to you to bring yourself to the attention of powerful people around you. They’re not going to find you on their own.”

Richard Parsons, former Chairman of Citigroup, former Time Warner Chairman and CEO 


“Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome while trying to succeed.”

Booker T. Washington, educator, author, orator, Co-Founder of National Negro Business League


“Never be limited by other people’s limited imaginations.”

Dr. Mae Jemison, first African-American female astronaut


“Five days a week, I read my goals before I go to sleep and when I wake up. There are 10 goals around health, family, and business with expiration dates, and I update them every six months.”

Daymond John, Founder, President and CEO, FUBU


“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

Martin Luther King Jr., Baptist Minister, Civil Rights Leader

Co-Founder Southern Christian Leadership Conference


“If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.”

Shirley Chisolm, United States Representative, humanitarian, activist


“Many people don’t focus enough on execution. If you make a commitment to get something done, you need to follow through on that commitment.”

Kenneth Chenault, former CEO and Chairman of American Express


There are so many more voices to be heard, so many more accomplishments to be recognized.

While it’s great to have this special month to shine the spotlight, it’s more important to widen the beam so that wise and successful people of all races and colors are seen, appreciated and recognized.


Let’s keep working together toward that day.