Born into a blue-collar family in the Jim Crow South, Herman J. Russell built a shoeshine business when he was 12 years old—and used the profits to buy a vacant lot where he built a duplex while he was still a teen. In the ensuing 50 years, Russell has continued to build and develop businesses, amassing one of the most influential and profitable minority-owned business conglomerates. In Building Atlanta, he shares his inspiring life story, revealing how he overcame racism, poverty, and a debilitating speech impediment to become one of the most successful African American entrepreneurs, Atlanta civic leaders, and unsung heroes of the civil rights movement. Not just a typical rags-to-riches story, Russell achieved his success through focus, planning, and humility and he shares his winning advice throughout. As a millionaire builder before the civil rights movement gained impetus and a friend of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Ralph Abernathy, and Andrew Young, he quietly helped finance the civil rights crusade, putting up bond for protestors and providing the funds that kept King’s dream alive. Here he provides a wonderful, behind-the-scenes look at the role that the business community—which included black and white individuals working together—played in Atlanta’s peaceful progression from the capital of the racially divided Old South to the financial center of the New South.
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