Part of a series celebrating Black History Month, WWJ Newsradio 950 shines the spotlight on one man working diligently to share the biographies of little known African American business owners who have led inspiring lives while making history.

Writing on behalf of others comes naturally for Anthony Neely, the former GM executive speech writer who served as press secretary to three Detroit mayors, where he crafted many speeches in his day, now has turned his talents to telling the inspiring life stories of historic African American business owners.

(Courtesy Anthony Neely)

(Courtesy Anthony Neely)

“These stories that I’m writing – I think are important because people don’t realize that not only have African Americans have been hard workers throughout American history, they’ve also been very innovative and they’ve been successful business owners when they’ve been given the opportunity. So many successful entrepreneurs – African American entrepreneurs – come from the Detroit area. I’ve been very interested in helping them tell their stories,” said Neely.

Neely co-authored Starting From Scratch: The Humble Beginnings of a Two Billion-Dollar Enterprise, the rags to riches story of John W. Barfield. Barfield started out as a janitor, making $1.75 an hour, and built the nation’s largest black-owned business: The Bartech Group.

The book is now the subject of a PBS documentary.

“People should realize reading these stories that African Americans have been just as successful in every way as any other community – any other ethnic group,” says Neely. “There are really no limits to what an African American or person of color can accomplish if given the opportunity.”

Neely is also the co-author and editor of two other biographies. The Activist Entrepreneur, the autobiography of Walt Douglas, chairman of Avis Ford and My American Success Story: Always the First, Never the Last – the autobiography of GM executive Roy Roberts who also served as co-author on the project along with Elizabeth Atkins. Neely says he hopes the books, and the history, inspire young people to make business ownership a goal in life.

“My role is to take on the voice of the entrepreneurs I’ve been able to work with – take on their voice – and see their experiences from their eyes and help them tell their story, perhaps in ways they are not able to or they don’t have the time to,” he says.

Detroit Public TV will rebroadcast the documentary “Starting From Scratch: The Remarkable Life of John W. Barfield” at 9 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 21. More on Barfield [here].


WWJ celebrates Black History month this year by highlighting local outstanding African-Americans who inspire others. Tune in for the reports throughout the day at: 6:20 a.m., 10:40 a.m., 3:40 p.m. and 7:40 p.m.


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