Madam C.J. Walker wasn’t the first African American millionaire

So why has Walker been remembered this way, and who were the first black millionaires?

The actual first black millionaires lived during the Antebellum and Reconstruction Eras, just before and after Civil War, a time where black codes in Free states and the Fugitive Slave Act made being high profile, wealthy and black dangerous. When Frederick Douglass’ first book, “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass,” became a hit in 1845, he left the country for Ireland, partially out of fear he would be recaptured and re-enslaved because of his notoriety.

The earliest known African American to achieve a net worth of a million dollars was William Liedesdorff. He lived free in New Orleans in the early 1840s, passing as a white man and working as a naval merchant. When he was outed as a black man,…

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