Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Celebrating Black History Month: First African-American Business to Be Publicly Traded

   Henry Green Parks, Jr. was a successful African American businessman who founded Parks Sausage Company in Baltimore, Maryland.  Parks was born on September 29, 1916 in Atlanta, Georgia to Henry Green Parks, Sr., and Gainelle Williams.  Parks was taken to Dayton, Ohio when he was six months old and was raised by his maternal Grandmother.
Raised in Dayton, Parks attended public schools, and then enrolled in Ohio State University in Columbus, graduating with honors from University College of Commerce in 1939 with a B.S. degree in Marketing.  He also became the first African American on Ohio State University’s swim team.
After graduation, Parks began working with Pabst Brewing Company as a sales representative targeting the African American market.  He became one of the leading salesmen, but in 1942 was given the opportunity to join W.B. Graham and Associates, a New York City public relations firm.  Parks explored the ideas of many different enterprises and worked at W.B. Graham and Associates for seven years.
In 1949, Parks left W.B. Graham and Associates for Crayton’s Southern Sausage Company, which created sausages appealing to the southern taste.  Parks was unsuccessful with Crayton’s Sausage Company, but after learning from his experiences and coming across southern recipes, 35-year-old Henry Parks founded Parks Sausage Company in 1951 in Baltimore, Maryland.  Parks Sausage Company started with only two employees, but rapidly grew to 240 employees with annual sales in the mid-1960s exceeding $14 million.  Parks used his marketing and public relations background to craft a radio commercial which featured a little boy saying, “More Parks Sausage, Mom, please.” The radio ad was enormously popular and helped spur the company's growth.  By 1955 it was the largest black-owned business in Baltimore and later became a publicly traded company.  Parks Sausage was also the first African American firm to advertise in a World Series when its ads appeared at one of the seven games between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Yankees in 1955.  His company also had the distinction of being the first publicly traded black-owned firm on the NASDAQ stock exchange.

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