Corporations: Making Black Beautiful

Young, black and ambitious. George E. Johnson applied to a Chicago finance company in 1954 for a $250 loan to make and market a hair-straightening cream. An unimpressed loan officer called the idea "ridiculous" and turned him down. A few days later, Johnson breezed into another branch of the same company, said he wanted the money for a California vacation—and got it on the spot. With that saucy subterfuge, and an additional $250 from a friend, Johnson started what is today the country's largest publicly held, black-run manufacturing firm: Johnson Products Co.,...

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