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Anthony Overton (March 21, 1865 – July 2, 1946), a banker and manufacturer, was the first African American to lead a major business conglomerate.[1]

Anthony Overton
Born(1865-03-21)March 21, 1865
DiedJuly 2, 1946(1946-07-02) (aged 81)

Early yearsEdit

Anthony Overton, the son of Anthony and Martha Overton, was born in Monroe, Louisiana. At some point after the Civil War ended, his family moved from Louisiana to Topeka, Kansas. [2] His father had been born into slavery, and was among the slaves emancipated by Abraham Lincoln. [3] His father ultimately became a small business owner, and made sure young Anthony had greater opportunities. Anthony attended Washburn College in Topeka, and after graduating with a degree in Chemistry [4], he studied law, earning his legal degree from the University of Kansas in 1888. He briefly worked as a lawyer, and became a judge in Shawnee, KS. [5]

Business CareerEdit

By the late 1890s, he had gone into business, opening his own grocery store in Kansas City, KS. [6] In 1898, Anthony established the Hygienic Manufacturing Company, which produced a number of goods for drug stores and groceries. [7] The products included the nationally known High Brown Face Powder, which was "the first market success in the sale of cosmetics for black women".[8] In 1911, he moved his business from Kansas to Chicago [9], where in 1923 he established the Douglass National Bank, the second nationally chartered black-owned bank in the United States.[10] He went on to develop a highly diverse conglomerate, including the Great Northern Realty Company, and the Victory Life Insurance Company. In 1925, he founded the Chicago Bee, a black newspaper known for its support of liberal causes. The newspaper was unusual because one of its managing editors was a woman, Olive M. Diggs. [11] In 1927 The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) awarded him its Spingarn Medal for outstanding achievement by an African American. That same year, he was also given the prestigious Harmon award's first award and Gold medal in Business. He was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.[12] In addition, there is an elementary school in Chicago that is named after him. [13]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Harvard Business School. American Business Leaders of the Twentieth Century: Anthony Overton
  2. ^ Hazel L. Briggs. "Hold Funeral Rights for Anthony Overton." Kansas City (KS) Plaindealer, July 12, 1946, p. 1.
  3. ^ "Obituary: Anthony Overton Sr." (Lawrence KS) Western Recorder, April 18, 1884, p.3.
  4. ^ "Anthony Overton Obituary." Chicago Bee, July 14, 1946, p. 4.
  5. ^ "Interesting People: From Peddler to Banker." Chicago Metro News, August 20, 1988, p. 9.
  6. ^ "Kansas City." (Topeka KS) Plaindealer, December 15, 1899, p. 1.
  7. ^ "Hopeful Signs." (Topeka KS) Plaindealer, June 20, 1900, p. 1.
  8. ^ Walker, p. 7.
  9. ^ "Good Banking Speaks for Itself." Chicago Courier, November 15, 1975, p. 1
  10. ^ Lash, p. 189.
  11. ^ Lester E. Brown. "Anthony Overton: Man of Ideas." Chicago Bee, July 14, 1946, p. 4.
  12. ^ Journal of Negro History, p. 394.
  13. ^ Lou Palmer. "Do You Know the Schools Named for Relevant Blacks?" Chicago Metro News, January 28, 1978, p. 3.


  • "Anthony Overton". The Journal of Negro History (July 1947), Vol. 32, No. 3, pp. 394–396.
  • Lash, Nicholas A. (2005), "Black-owned banks: A survey of the issues", Journal of Developmental Entrepreneurship, Vol. 10, No. 2, pp. 187–202.
  • "Anthony Overton: Born Entrepreneur"
  • Walker, Juliet E. K. (2010). "African American Women Business Enterprises: Since the Civil War to Civil Rights, 1865–1964". The Herstorian Newsletter, Volume 3, Issue 2.