At barely 30 years old, Arthur George Gaston founded the Booker T. Washington Insurance Company in 1923 with just $500. The business grew, and with the profits, Gaston built a diverse business empire valued at more than $30 million. Gaston’s businesses ranged from funeral homes, Citizens Federal Savings and Loan, and Birmingham’s only first-class accommodation that accepted Black customers.
Beyond business, Gaston found himself positioned as an intermediary between white moderates and civil rights leaders in Birmingham, Alabama. In the face of growing racial violence that saw militant segregationists bomb his motel and home, Gaston joined Martin Luther King, Jr., and President John F. Kennedy to urge a federal response to the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, in which four African American girls were killed. These conversations were critical steps leading to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Click here to learn more about this inspiring Black leader who worked to strengthen his community until his passing at the age of 103.
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