From slavery to millionaire
Slavery has to be the most barbaric act by human against their fellow humans. If you have not read about slavery, then you need to read a book on the subject and it went on for over 300 years. Imagine, people with no rights and no freedom.
The man and his temerity
Imagine someone coming from such circumstances to become successful. Alonzo Herndon is not a name that most of us can remember unless you live in Atlanta, Georgia. Alonzo was born into slavery on the 26th June 1858. His father was a white slave owner, the mother a slave ( so you know what happened there). At the end of slavery, Alonzo, his brother, mother and grandmother were set free in 1865, but this was into poverty. Most freed slaves had no form of education or skills to earn money.
Alonzo only went to school in the early days for about a year. His mother and grandmother became share croppers, so he joined them. So what is share cropping? This is a system that allowed land owners to rent their land out to people who farm on the land in exchange for a percentage of the harvest. The system was unfair to the farmers as most end owing the landowners a lot of money. It was deemed to be an unfair system. So why did the farmers agreed to it? The farmers were mainly newly freed slaves with very little money, no skills, no education and therefore had very little options.
Hard work pays
He supplemented his income by selling peanuts and working as a labourer. He was not too keen on the farm work, so he became an apprentice barber.
He saved most of his money from his work and subsequently started his own barber shop in Jonesboro, Georgia. He moved to Atlanta, Georgia in 1883 and by 1904 owned 3 barber shops.
He invested the money from his shops into properties and also started the Atlanta life insurance company which was taken over by his son after his death in 1927.
Sheer determination against all odds
Let’s step back a bit. Alonzo married Adrienne and had a son who was born in 1897. After his death in 1927, the son took over the running of the business. The son; Norris was Harvard educated. He took the business to a new level, especially the Atlanta Life Insurance company that Alonzo started in 1905.
The family also had other investments in banks, schools, hotels, restaurants etc.
The elder Herndon built a 15 bedroom mansion where they lived. This mansion has been turned into the Herndon home museum.
Why is this story important to entrepreneurs?
Here was a man born into the most difficult of circumstances. There was no silver spoon, the environment was challenging and still found a way to overcome these difficult situations to become a millionaire. In the process, he helped so many in Atlanta. By the time of his death, he was one of the richest African Americans in the state, if not the country.
He created a foundation to benefit and help entrepreneurs.
The legacy of this great family still lives on today nearly 100 years after the death of Alonzo. What a great story.
The information above came from