Transcript for Once ravaged, Black-owned businesses are making a comeback and hoping to build wealth
This is where he was killed, right here, on this road. And you saw his body. Lying in the ditch, with his eyes open. Can a five-year-old child ever forget such a thing. Not that. Not that. I remember. For 78-year-old Josephine bowling her childhood, her life, shaped by her father's murder more than 70 years ago. A murder that today stands as a metaphor for dreams deferred, the unhealed wound of racism etched in stone. Enraged jealous white business over the success of Elmore bowling, too successful to be a Negro. He had a farm and was employing about 40 people. He started a milk route where he transported milk from ever blacks to the dairies in Montgomery and then when he went to the churches my mom carried a trunk of food and people bought plates from us, so, and ice Sounds like in many ways your dad was a Jeff bezos, Amazon of his time. Yes. So he was killed because he was out of his place. And dream to aspire to go higher. How dare he. How dare he. He was 39 shot 7 times on by two white men. Lynch law en route 80 in this Montgomery county, road made famous by martin Luther king, Jr. And thousand that's marched in Selma to Montgomery. We lost everything. But it was something we had to live with and adjust with and go on. Reporter: Elmore was one of untold numbers of successful black business owners throughout the country who found a way to thrive in the early 1900's. At the time of my father's death he had 40,000 in the bank in Montgomery, estimated to be worth $500,000 now. Their family story is one of generational wealth not just lost but stolen. A truth repeated across the country, a truth with severe consequences. Today a typical white family has nearly eight times the wealth of their black counterparts. She says after her father's murder white debt collectors fraudulently claimed they were owed and took everything, plunging her family into poverty. The older brothers quit school and got jobs. My mother got a job working at - the dry-cleaners. She put me through college working in laundry. Folk in church say your momma made a way out of no way. That's what they'd say, yes. Only one man was arrested for Elmore's murder and the charges later dropped by a grand jury. What are you thinking. Hard. Difficult. He was not accused of a crime. Had not committed a crime. Yet, murdered, for being successful. Leaving seven children and a wife. A loss never forgotten. Wealth never reclaimed. When you're cut down to the bottom with nothing to build on, that's basically where black people are, you have nothing to build on. For those in this moment might ask, is Elmore bowling's daughter asking for a hand out? Absolutely not. My father did not and nor will I. You got fired up just now I think. Yeah yeah. That would be the last thing. My father believed in work. 700 miles north in Richmond, Virginia. We want to reclaim what is ours. A group of women entrepreneurs, shore and Lindman and crateman, funding to provide black prosperity in a district known as the birthplace of black capitalism. At one point we had six black-owned banks here in the city. There was always good eating in Jackson ward, that is where entertainment was, everything from the market to barber shops to salons, we had black-owned hotels. I'm the daughter of twoent entrepreneurs, actually and the sister of an entrepreneur and it's my responsibility to pass that down to my daughter. All that a mile from what was once the confederate capitol. By the 60's many things changed. Things we associate with thriving communities like running water, sewer systems and trash collection were all negligent in these communities. Public officials built the Richmond Peter turnpike which levelled roughly 730 homes. Also standing in the way of rebuilding were hurdles like red lining, a practice where banks literally drew red lines largely around communities of color and the poor, denying loans, pinch holing prosperity. If I super imposed any area of poverty over red line area you would see correlation from areas that suffer from disproptionality. There's places I walk into that I immediately feel on guard and know I am not welcome is that may not allow me the same level of access. Reporter: These women founded the Jackson war collective to connect black businesses to resources. The first challenge you face as a black business owner is access to capitol. -- Capital. Make sure she's on the list. Reporter: Before brown could open the doors in 2019 she says her loan application was rejected by three different banks. I was red-lined. They didn't see that we'd be able to sob tan -- obtain the finances to pay them back. The amount I was asking for I had more than that in the assets I had. Makes me think maybe they didn't want to take the chance on me maybe because of the color of my skin. And then one of the collective says she's too often hears. I'm here for three month assessment. On this day is checking in with Dr. Brown. This is the only black and brown owned in the city in the middle of the pandemic so I imagine she needs support. She administers potentially life-saving vaccines for covid-19, she is having trouble qualifying for new loans to allow her business to grow. We're creating jobs here and paying taxes here, if there's any opportunities for businesses like mine. Yeah because I know your overhead -- -- It's expensive, really, really expensive. I do know that. I don't want to name the financial institution but I do have a thought. Potentially. The real worth lies in seeing equity ensuring a level playing field with business, land and real estate ownership. The struggle for economic justice is not a new one, and fundamental justice also lingers. Do you ever wander what happened to those men. I had the opportunity to meet the white man's daughter and I did not do that. I did not think I could, I guess, upset her, not knowing who she was. Wait a minute. You were worried about upsetting her? Yes. And her father killed your father and you're worried about upsetting her? Yes, I did not know enough about the circumstance to infringe on her rights as a human. So you decided to show her grace. A grace that was denied your father. Yes. Reporter: Today a retired educator, Joseph Ian devotes her time and talent to this old school house. In 1883 it became a separate building. She attended here, and hopes to honor what her father believe in deeply, education, that she believes will close the racial wealth gap. They wanted to educate the students. Would give you the paddle if they didn't think you could leather. Learn. If those old walls could talk. Did you have your name over here. I was just fine at that time. I didn't to anything but I would have. She's converting this one-room school built in the 1800's into a museum and adult learning center. Your dad never learned to read or write but valued education and knew the power of Yes. I was the first black in a lot of circumstances. First black pe teacher couple times. First black administrator. First black president of the Alabama social school of psychologists. What would your dad say about you now? He would be proud. I wish I had the business sense that he had. But I do have the fortitude. Josephine is proof diamonds do come from rock hard and unspeakable pressure and pain. She hopes to create new jewels and wherever possible reclaim old ones. My thanks to Byron, catch his battle for reparations in soul of a nation examining the lived experiences of black Americans, premiering tomorrow evening 10:00, 9 central only on NBC.
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