New Book Explores First African Americans to Escape Slavery, Become Millionaires

Shomari Walls/Harper Collins

One in seven white families in the United States are now millionaires. For black families, it’s one in 50

Wealth disparities in the United States continue to grow wider between the rich and the poor and between whites and people of color. 

Those racial disparities are not new in the United States. They reach all the way back to the beginning of the nation and the trade of black people as property. 

But the existence of black wealth is also not new according to the author of a new book titled Black Fortunes: The Story of the First Six African Americans Who Escaped Slavery and Became Millionaires

The author, Shomari Wills, speaks with Detroit Today host Stephen Henderson about the book and what he learned about the history of African American wealth in the United States. 

The six folks in the book, they all come out of the slave period in different ways,” explains Wills.

After they got free a lot of them went into business and their businesses just grew and grew and grew because they were just brilliant, brilliant business people.” 

Wills and Henderson also talk about how the book discusses the “myth of the model minority.”

Stories of black millionaires can be used to shame people of color struggling economically,” says Wills. ”I think this book makes the opposite argument.”

Click on the audio player above for the full conversation. 

Image credit: Harper Collins

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Detroit Today

Dynamic and diverse voices. News, politics, community and the issues that define our region. Hosted by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Stephen Henderson, Detroit Today brings you fresh and perceptive views weekdays at 9 am and 7 pm.  

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