Business and Commerce

Stock Exchange

What was the first black company on the stock exchange?

In 1971 Johnson Products became the first black firm to be listed on a major stock exchange when it was listed on the American Stock Exchange. The firm was founded by George Ellis Johnson Sr. (1927–) in 1954. Johnson was the first black elected a director of the board of Commonwealth Edison, in 1971. Johnson was born in Richton, Mississippi, to sharecroppers. He relocated to Chicago with his mother, and attended Wendell Phillips Academy High School until he was forced to drop out to help support his family. He joined Fuller Products and later became a production chemist, developing a hair relaxer for men. In 1954 Johnson borrowed $250 from a finance company to establish Johnson Products. Later he and his wife turned the company into a multimillion-dollar enterprise known for innovations in the beauty-care products industry. In the mid-1980s he lost the company in a divorce settlement.


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