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Secrets & Lessons from 1st Black Millionaire's Life Alonzo Herndon

A Culture & Media Leaderz Throwback Moment... #ThrowBackThursday

Alonzo Herndon and his family's legacy is preserved, visit The Herndon Home in Atlanta, GA to learn more from his impact, service, and hard work to support your own path as a creative, entrepreneur, artist, or leader.  Tickets:
From left to right, portrait of Alonzon Herndon: background, Alonzo Herndon's Atlanta, GA home known as The Herndon Home, preserved as a museum open; upper right portrait of The Herndon Family, lower right Alonzo Herndon and son Source: orig. The Herndon Home


Alfonzo Herndon was born into slavery, rose to become the region's premier barber, and eventually became Atlanta’s first Black millionaire, read on to find out how as well as some secrets for how he used his position to uplift others.


During the Jim Crow era, there was a philosophy of self-help and philanthropy in the black community. According to an article by the Library of Congress, Alfonzo Herndon was a prime example of this, having been born into slavery and becoming a barber at a time when it was one of the few professions open to African Americans. Following the repeal of Jim Crow laws and segregation, he bought the Atlanta Life Insurance Company and grew it to become the largest insurance company owned and operated by African Americans in the United States.

He rose to prominence by investing in real estate and purchasing the Atlanta Life Insurance Company, which he expanded to other southern states and became "the largest insurance company owned and operated by African Americans in the United States." His story like others is Black History, but Black History is American history that we all can learn from to glow up, heal, and do better together.

Tips / Thought-starters

Tips & lessons to be learned from his story for current and rising Music, Media & Culture Leaderz

  • Self-determination and Perseverance Alfonzo Herndon's life exemplifies the strength of self-determination and perseverance. Despite being born into slavery, he overcame his situation to become one of the first African Americans to earn a million dollars through hard work, dedication, and investments. Along with helping others, he developed into a pillar of the neighborhood. We can apply these lessons to our own lives by being proactive in pursuing our objectives, resourceful in creating opportunities, and charitable in helping those who are less fortunate. These lessons can help us achieve our own goals and make a positive difference in our communities.

  • Invest Alfonzo Herndon was an African American man born into slavery who rose to great success through real estate and business investments. Herndon's story demonstrates how investing in real estate and businesses can be a viable route to wealth. By making wise investments and learning the fundamentals of real estate and business, we can take inspiration from his example and apply this lesson to our own lives.

  • Collaborate To uplift others in his community, Alonzo Herndon reached beyond himself to collaborate with other leaders including authors, creatives, educators and business leaders. According to Harvard Business School Alonzo Herndon "was also the co-founder of the Niagara Movement, the forerunner of today’s NAACP." The Niagara Movement was a movement of African-American intellectuals that was founded in 1905 at Niagara Falls by such prominent men as W. E. B. DuBois and William Monroe Trotter. The movement was dedicated to obtaining civil rights for African-Americans. In 1909, the Niagara Movement was hampered by a lack of funds, and many members (including DuBois) joined the newly-founded National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The NAACP was an organization which used legal power to obtain rights for black Americans, and which is still in existence today as shared by Oberlin College.

Key Questions/Next Steps

  • Connect with existing networks and resources Reach out to those who have already made a name for themselves in the area, such as community businesses, organizations, and individuals. Expand your reach by utilizing resources, such as grants, loans, and other forms of financial aid, or by gaining access to new markets.

  • Identify growth opportunities Conduct community research to identify areas of need that you can fill. Examine current patterns to find potential growth areas for your company.

  • Create a business model that benefits the community Create a business model that provides the community with a service or product that meets their needs and is consistent with the values of the local population. To start a cycle of growth, think of ways to invest profits back into the community.



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