As part of Black Enterprise’s 50th Anniversary, chief executives of the nation’s largest corporations have offered their tributes of our visionary founder Earl G. Graves Sr.
These business leaders have come to value the information BE provides—from its inception as a groundbreaking publication in the 1970s through its evolution to an expansive multimedia company of this millennium—to millions of African Americans to help them attain success as business owners and corporate executives. They fully appreciate BE’s influence on its audience in showcasing countless examples of discovery and achievement, reinforcing professional aspirations, and confirming fruitful ascent across a range of fields. Through presentations and invitations, they became aware that the highest standards of excellence from African American professionals is not an aberration tied to a select few but an ongoing part of our history. Moreover, large numbers of CEOs over the years recognized and embraced this platform that Publisher Graves designed for education and advocacy, constantly promoting equal opportunity, challenging corporate leadership to purposely design inclusive environments, and recognizing those who have chosen the right path or corrected course.
Through this process, our founder met his mission: the development of corporate partnerships in which the realization and pursuit of the progression of African American executives, suppliers, consumers, and other stakeholders was a business imperative that fostered dynamic, profitable companies as well as a stronger nation. On the following pages, these corporate leaders—our partners—share why they value and embrace our founder’s legacy.
American Airlines was privileged to have Earl G. Graves Sr. join our Board of Directors in 1995. Earl Graves wasn’t just a world-changing trailblazer and entrepreneur—he was part of our family. Over his 13 years of service on the Board, he left an indelible mark on the airline. That legacy lives on today. The American Airlines team is better because of Earl’s leadership, and we continue to celebrate his legacy through our annual Earl G. Graves Award for Leadership in Diversity and Inclusion. For the past 11 years, this award has recognized team members who show inspired and inclusive leadership—a testament to what Earl taught us as an airline, and as leaders.
Our purpose as an airline is to care for people on life’s journey and fostering a diverse and inclusive environment is part of every journey. Earl was a pioneer in modeling this philosophy. We encourage people to bring their authentic selves to work and to welcome different backgrounds, cultures, and experiences that enrich our work culture and our business.
Earl also taught us about connections, and at the core of air travel lies the mission to connect people. We can only do that when we embrace the diversity the world has to offer. We seek to embed diversity, equity, and inclusion into everything we do, and we have never had a greater responsibility to do so than today.
We know Black Lives Matter. And we understand actions matter over words. At American Airlines, we will continue to fight for the equality and respect every human being deserves, and to become a leader in corporate equity. It’s the legacy Earl taught us and that he would want us to live, and one we consider a privilege to uphold.