Earl Graves Sr., Black Enterprise Founder and Black Business Pioneer Dies at 85
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Earl Graves Sr., Black Enterprise Founder and Black Business Pioneer Dies at 85

Earl G. Graves, Sr. — founder and publisher of Black Enterprise (BE) — has passed away at 85-years-old.

According to Black Enterprise, his son and BE CEO, Earl “Butch” Graves Jr. said his father transitioned “quietly” at 9:22 p.m. on April 6 after fighting Alzheimer’s Disease.

The legendary entrepreneur is considered a Black business pioneer and champion of financial literacy. Through his lifetime Graves’ passion for uplifting and educating the Black community led him to establish Black Enterprise magazine in 1970 and steer it to become one of the leading voices in the world of business. 

With a $250,000 business loan Graves’ grew BE to become a reliable resource for African American entrepreneurs. He created a go-to platform that provided encouragement as well as sought after information on how to navigate business endeavors.

In Graves’ best-selling book, “How To Succeed In Business Without Being White,” he details the foundation of his mission and why he created BE magazine.

“The time was ripe for a magazine devoted to economic development in the African American community. The publication was committed to the task of educating, inspiring and uplifting its readers. My goal was to show them how to thrive professionally, economically and as proactive, empowered citizens,” Graves said. 

Under Graves’ leadership BE remained relevant and successfully adapted to technology advances. After starting out as a single-magazine, BE eventually became a web staple for Black entrepreneurship, and has brought digital and live broadcasting events to over six million African Americans. 

Today BE 100s — Black Enterprise’s ranking of the nation’s largest Black businesses — is held in high esteem among business societies. According to the platform, on one annual ranking, Graves managed two companies on the list, BE and Pepsi-Cola of Washington D.C. He was also one of the first African Americans to sit on major corporate boards for companies like Daimler Chrysler, American Airlines and more.

Many notable Black entrepreneurs like Oprah Winfrey, Kenneth Chenault, and Bob Johnson made their first introductions to the world via BE magazine. Billionaire and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, Robert Smith attributes his start in business to BE. 

Rest in peace Earl Graves Sr. Your legacy and commitment to the Black community are forever sealed in history. 

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