In addition to encouraging readers to take up my book, I continue to read great books from others. One of those 'great books' that leaders and citizens should read — of and for any city they want to thrive in the future — is one recently written by one of my business heroes, Mr. Herman J. Russell. Building Atlanta: How I Broke Through Segregation to Launch a Business Empire.

I know Mr. Russell as one who helped to literally build the Atlanta skyline, and to build a remarkable company in the same breath.  A company now run by his capable children, several of which I now call my friends.  I also know Mr. Russell as one who sheltered and supported leaders from the civil rights movement, and the one who gave Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. a safe place to retreat when in his home city of Atlanta.  Dr. King almost spent more time in Mr. Russell's swimming pool than he and his family did.

Mr. Herman J. Russell is an American icon, and is precisely what I speak about when I talk about silver rights and the silver rights movement, that follows the civil rights movement.  Get his book, it will inspire you, as it has inspired me too.

Here is what other's have to say about Mr. Russell's book, below.  And you can purchase Building Atlanta: How I Broke Through Segregation to Launch a Business Empire here.

Born into a blue-collar family in the Jim Crow South, Herman J. Russell built a shoeshine business when he was twelve years old—and used the profits to buy a vacant lot where he built a duplex while he was still a teen. Over the next fifty years, he continued to build businesses, amassing one of the nation’s most profitable minority-owned conglomerates.

In Building Atlanta, Russell shares his inspiring life story and reveals 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 took hold and a friend of Dr. King, 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. He provides a wonderful behind-the-scenes look at the role the business community, both black and white 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.

 What reviewers have had to say:

Russell bought his first property at age 16 with funds saved from his shoe-shine business and skills in building construction he learned from his father. Income from the duplex paid for his college education. Born the last of eight children in a poor Georgia family, he rose to be a major builder and developer in Atlanta and a civic leader who helped elect Andrew Young, the first black congressman from the South since Reconstruction, and Maynard Jackson, the first black mayor of Atlanta. During the civil rights era, Russell worked behind the scenes with influential black clergy and businessmen, helped finance the black-owned newspaper, and provided bail money for those arrested for civil disobedience. As a businessman, he built homes for the newly emerging black middle class as racial restrictions were lifted, and he went on to desegregate the clubs, cliques, and boards of Atlanta’s movers and shakers. Detailing a long career of setbacks and successes, Russell shares memories of growing up in Atlanta during challenging and pivotal times. –Vanessa Bush



“Not many people alive in Atlanta today can look back and say they were involved with Dr. King, but Herman can do that. He’s been an important person in the history of this city.”  —Arthur Blank, cofounder, the Home Depot; owner, Atlanta Falcons

“Herman has been one of the pillars of the Atlanta community for many years, as a businessperson but also as a caring, concerned citizen. He’s made a lasting contribution, not just to Atlanta but to the nation.”  —John Lewis, U.S. representative, Georgia fifth congressional district

“I think that Herman Russell had as much to do with the rise of Atlanta as Ted Turner. Ted did a tremendous job in taking Atlanta all over the world via CNN and Herman did the same with his building empire.”  —Hank Aaron, Hall-of-Fame baseball player

“Here’s a man who, from his humble start working in his father’s plastering business, has gone on to reshape the urban landscape of many of America’s greatest cities.”  —Earl Graves, founder and publisher of Black Enterprise

It goes without saying that I see a great deal of synergies between Mr. Russell's great new book, and my own recently published book, How The Poor Can Save Capitalism:
Rebuilding the Path to the Middle Class. The Soution for the 100%.  Essentially, what Mr. Russell has done, is what I believe we need an entire generation to now do!
Let's go.

John Hope Bryant is the Founder, Chairman and CEO of Operation HOPE and Bryant Group Companies, Inc. Magazine/CEO READ bestselling business author of LOVE LEADERSHIP: The New Way to Lead in a Fear-Based World (Jossey-Bass), and is the only 2010-2012 bestselling business author in America who is also African-American. His newest bestselling book is HOW THE POOR CAN SAVE CAPITALISM(Berrett Koehler Publishing). Bryant is a Member of the U.S. President's Advisory Council on Financial Capability for Young Americans, and co-chair for Project 5117, which is a plan for the rebirth of underserved America.

Follow John Hope Bryant on LinkedIn Influencers here.


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