America's African American Billionaire Robert Johnson
History of Black Entrepreneurship in the U.S.
Dr. Juliet E. K. Walker
December 1, 2005
Robert Johnson was the first black American to achieve billionaire status after selling Black Entertainment Television to Viacom. The purpose of this paper is to look at Robert Johnson as the Black entrepreneur. Johnson is as an example of a new Black entrepreneur: he achieved his wealth primary through joint ventures and strategic business alliances. Specifically, I will explore how through the co modification of black culture, Robert Johnson became a billionaire, and how he exemplifies an era of new black entrepreneurs through his joint ventures, and how he achieved his wealth through the co modification of black culture. Robert Johnson is a giant among Black entrepreneurs because he had the first black television network. My paper will consist of four sections. My examination of Johnson will include a brief biography of Robert Johnson, the founding growth and expansion of BET, Johnson's various companies and business ventures that have helped him to become one the most successful Black entrepreneur's in history, a brief discussion of the controversies surrounding the selling of BET to Viacom and discussion of to what extent I believe that Robert Johnson owes the Black community. A variety of primary and secondary sources that include books, scholarly journals and articles, and host of websites provided me with the material for my research paper on Bob Johnson. An important source was Brett Pulley's book The Billion Dollar BET, Robert Johnson and the Inside Story of Black Entertainment Television. This book provided me with a comprehensive examination Robert Johnson's life, how bet is created
and they way it expanded to cable television, and his numerous companies and business. Another significant source that I used was Tiffeni J. Fontno, article "Robert L. 1946." from the International Directory of Business Biographies which I used as a means for biographical information on Robert Johnson. In the Encyclopedia of African American Business History edited by Juliet E. K. Walker, I found an article written by William E. Berry called "Johnson, Robert L" that was very helpful in providing me with a chronological list of Robert Johnson's various companies and businesses prior to 1998. The combination of my sources provided a basis for me to develop my research paper on Bob Johnson. Biography on Robert Johnson
Robert Johnson was brought into this world on April 8, 1946 in Hickory, Mississippi but he grew up and Freeport, Illinois. He father was Archie Johnson who was a timber seller and his mother was Edna Johnson who was a school teacher. Robert Johnson was the ninth of ten children. Robert Johnson's journey down the road to becoming a successful entrepreneur began at an early age when he got his first job. When he was only 12 years old, he delivered for the Rockford Morning Star. His discipline and diligence was reflected in his successful high school career. After high school he attended the University of Illinois where he received his BA in 1968. He met Sheila Crump at the University of Illinois and they got married in 1969. He attended Princeton University and received his MBA in 1972. Robert Johnson had goals of becoming a U.S. Bowens 4
ambassador when he attended the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs where he finished 6th in his class. After Princeton, Johnson went on to explore communication media where he held a wide variety of job positions in this field. He worked as a public affairs officer at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, director of communications for the Washington, D.C. Then Johnson worked in the office of the National Urban League as press aide to Sterling Tucker, the Washington, D.C. Eventually, Johnson worked as councilman and...
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