Book About America’s First Black Millionaires Inspired by Darby Bus Line Operator


Black Fortunes, a new book by journalist Shomari Wills that tells the story of America’s first black millionaires, was inspired by John Drew, who operated a bus line in Darby in the early 1900s, writes John Williams for The New York Times.

Black Fortunes by journalist Shomari Wills is available on

Drew was Wills’s great-great uncle so he grew up hearing stories about him from his mother. She told Wills that in the late 1920s, Drew used his profits to invest in the stock market.

“He rode the bull market pretty long, and pulled his money out right before the crash,” said Wills. “He walked away with close to a million dollars.”

Wills began researching the first black millionaires in America in 2013 while at Columbia Journalism School. He discovered many interesting things during his research, particularly how much they spent advancing racial equality in the United States.

“Throughout their lives, they put themselves at risk, funneling the money they were able to make into abolition, civil rights, anti-lynching,“ he said. “They devoted an incredible amount of their money trying to help the African-American community.“

Read the entire interview in The New York Times by clicking here.

Editor’s Note: This post first appeared Feb. 6, 2018.

Exploring race and wealth.

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