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Black Titan: A. G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire Hardcover – December 30, 2003

4.5 out of 5 stars 54 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“No library of American business achievement is complete without the story of Arthur G. Gaston. . . . Black Titan is a long overdue contribution to the recording of not just black history, but American history.”
Chairman and CEO, Earl G. Graves Ltd.
Founder and Publisher, Black Enterprise magazine
Author of How to Succeed in Business Without Being White:
Straight Talk on Making It in America

“A. G. Gaston was there first. He succeeded when the odds seemed insurmountable. This important book traces his incredible life, from coal miner to millionaire. It is full of lessons for anyone looking to succeed in today’s business world.”
CEO, Black Entertainment Television, Inc.

“It was my privilege to meet A. G. Gaston in Birmingham, Alabama, during the early 1970s. I was greatly inspired by his unique entrepreneurial vision and passionate belief in economic self-sufficiency. . . . This book should be read by every entrepreneur.”
Chairman, Uniworld Group

From the Inside Flap

The grandson of slaves, born into poverty in 1892 in the Deep South, A. G. Gaston died more than a century later with a fortune worth well over $130 million and a business empire spanning communications, real estate, and insurance. Gaston was, by any measure, a heroic figure whose wealth and influence bore comparison to J. P. Morgan and Andrew Carnegie. Here, for the first time, is the story of the life of this extraordinary pioneer, told by his niece and grandniece, the award-winning television journalist Carol Jenkins and her daughter Elizabeth Gardner Hines.

Born at a time when the bitter legacy of slavery and Reconstruction still poisoned the lives of black Americans, Gaston was determined to make a difference for himself and his people. His first job, after serving in the celebrated all-black regiment during World War I, bound him to the near-slavery of an Alabama coal mine?but even here Gaston saw not only hope but opportunity. He launched a business selling lunches to fellow miners, soon established a rudimentary bank?and from then on there was no stopping him. A kind of black Horatio Alger, Gaston let a single, powerful question be his guide: What do our people need now? His success flowed from an uncanny genius for knowing the answer.

Combining rich family lore with a deep knowledge of American social and economic history, Carol Jenkins and Elizabeth Hines unfold Gaston?s success story against the backdrop of a century of crushing racial hatred and bigotry. Gaston not only survived the hardships of being black during the Depression, he flourished, and by the 1950s he was ruling a Birmingham-based business empire. When the movement for civil rights swept through the South in the late 1950s and early 1960s, Gaston provided critical financial support to many activists.

At the time of his death in 1996, A. G. Gaston was one of the wealthiest black men in America, if not the wealthiest. But his legacy extended far beyond the monetary. He was a man who had proved it was possible to overcome staggering odds and make a place for himself as a leader, a captain of industry, and a far-sighted philanthropist. Writing with grace and power, Jenkins and Hines bring their distinguished ancestor fully to life in the pages of this book. Black Titan is the story of a man who created his own future?and in the process, blazed a future for all black businesspeople in America.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: One World/Ballantine; 1 edition (December 30, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345453476
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345453471
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #122,712 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Dera R Williams VINE VOICE on August 3, 2004
Format: Hardcover
We learned in Our Kind of People that there have always been rich black folk; what is shameful is our lack of exposure or knowledge of such individuals. A.J. Gaston was one of the wealthiest black men and the first black millionaire. His story has been detailed by his niece, journalist/broadcaster Carol Jenkins, and her daughter, Elizabeth Gardner Hines in Black Titan, a revealing biography that is both compelling and forthright. Gaston, who was born poor in Alabama in 1892 and raised partially by his maternal grandparents in Demopolis, then went to live with his mother, Rosie, in Birmingham where she worked as a maid for a prominent white family.

In Birmingham Gaston went to the Tuggle Institute for high school where he came in contact with Booker T. Washington who would remain one of his biggest influences. After he left high school, he supported himself with jobs such as delivering newspapers and factory work until he entered the army. It was overseas in France that he felt like a man but was brought back to reality when he returned to Jim Crow Alabama. Gaston went to work in the mines; dirty, grueling work but it was there where his entrepreneurial spirit was born. He sold his mother's catered lunches to the other miners and always being frugal, and then started a loan business. A businessman in the making, he then partnered with the Baptist church to start burial insurance and funeral businesses. Little by little these enterprises grew and when he partnered with A.L. Smith, who was already an established businessman, his ventures grew. Gaston & Smith proved to be very profitable professionally and personally when he married Smith's daughter Creola. They worked together and when she died, he married Minnie Gardner, a school teacher who came from a prominent family.
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Format: Hardcover
To say that a black man in one of the most segregated states in the Union,would rise up and become a millionaire during a time when that was not the norm,is in and of itself a miracle. The story of A.G.Gaston is little known outside of Birmingham and Alabama, but every African American should get a copy of this book and read for yourself how this man rose up and became a millionaire during Jim Crow times. Written by his neices,it is tastefully written,and a wonderful addition to anyone's library.
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Format: Hardcover
This story really made me appreciate and admire what this man went through to become who he was. It told much more than how to get rich and stay rich. It spoke of his beginnings, his many obstacles in his path, and the ability to persevere in a time when it seemed impossible, especially in Birmingham, Alabama. It really put many things in perspective for me, and I hope other people get the honor of reading this timeless piece. I am a business major, so this was something I know I needed. The unfortunate (but not surprising one bit) thing is before this book, I had never heard of A.G. Gaston. In college, you hear about the Rockefellers, the Carnegie's, and others. I stumbled across this book when I was browsing around at the bookstore. Had it not been for that, I may have never known anything about this brillant man and the contributions he made in the Black community. I gained much more than I ever expected initially.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The story of A.G. Gaston is simply incredible. I purchased the book because I love to read stories
about people who have overcome impossible odds to become successful business people.
But I am also a 20th century history buff and therefore, this
book was an exceptional treat. About halfway through, I was
fantasizing about a Ken Burns documentary called, The Life And Times Of A.G. Gaston.
One quick sidebar; Check out the story of
Madame C.J. Walker, a Black woman born shortly after the Civil
war, to former slaves. She became a multi-millionaire and died
at age 52 at about the same time Mr. Gaston was returning from
WWI. She was the first self made Black female millionaire and
her story is also amazing.
A.G. Gaston was clearly from the Booker T. Washington school of
economics. He survived and thrived in an area that was arguably ground zero of the
insanely racist south, and arguably ground zero of the civil rights movement.
I refer to the area roughly bounded by Montgomery and Birmingham Alabama, and Meridian Mississippi.
It would have been easier for a Black man to become a multi-millionaire in almost any other area of the country.
I would highly recommend this book as required reading in American high schools.
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Format: Hardcover
This biography of A.G. Gaston has inspired my life and business strategies more than any other book I have ever read!! With the book's vivid format, I could easily envision Gaston's life's experiences, business logic and implementation. Using his life's example of dedication and entrepreneurial genius, in my business I have become more effective in seeking and meeting customer's needs.
Furthermore, I had always wondered where the money came from that fueled the Civil Rights movement. The book shared Gaston's accomplishments despite racial hatred and segregation and how great an impact be had on American history.
I will read it again and continue to encourage others to read it.
Thank God for the Authors!!
Brandon J. Everitt
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