New Documentary ‘Boss’ Explores Black Business in America


The story of American entrepreneurship has largely left out the African-American experience. But there’s a new film airing on PBS that documents 150 years of just that called, “Boss: The Black Experience in Business.”

The two-hour documentary includes many stories about African-American entrepreneurs, including some Chicagoans who played major roles in various industries, such as journalist Ida B. Wells, publisher John H. Johnson and John Rogers, CEO and founder of Ariel Investments.

“Boss: The Black Experience in Business” is directed by Peabody- and Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Stanley Nelson (“Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Historically Black Colleges,” “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution” and “Freedom Summer”). The film is made in association with Chicago’s The HistoryMakers, a nonprofit that oversees the nation’s largest African-American video oral history archive. The organization’s founder, Julieanna Richardson, is co-executive producer of “Boss.”

“African-Americans have played a central role in the history of American business, but their stories are often left untold,” Nelson said. “Today, as we see talented black businessmen and women not only building successful companies in mainstream America, but also emerging as managers and CEOs for some of the most powerful corporate entities in the world.”

Many notable historians and scholars help tell the story, including Mehrsa Baradaran, author of “The Color of Money: Black Banks and the Racial Wealth Gap”; A’Lelia Bundles, journalist, historian and author of “On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker”; Marcia Chatelain, associate professor of history and African-American Studies at Georgetown University; Mark Anthony Neal, professor of Black popular culture in the Department of African and African-American Studies at Duke University; Jane Rhodes, professor of African-American history, University of Illinois at Chicago; and Juliet EK Walker, professor of history, University of Texas at Austin.

Joining us on "Chicago Tonight" are Stanley Nelson, Julieanna Richardson and John W. Rogers, Jr. 

Note: This story will be updated with video.


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