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Prominent Chicagoans featured in new documentary “Boss: The Black Experience in Business” on WTTW

WTTW, Chicago’s PBS affiliate, is premiering a new two-hour documentary on Tuesday, April 23 at 8:00 pm called Boss: The Black Experience in Business. Peabody and Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Stanley Nelson,  trace the lives of African American entrepreneurs from Chicago and around the country over 150 years, from those bound by bondage to moguls at the top of million-dollar empires.

WTTW will also release three exclusive videos on and WTTW’s social channels to accompany the film. These videos profile a new generation of boss movers and shakers in Chicago who are making a positive impact on their community, including:

  • Monique Rodriguez, founder of Mielle haircare, an organic and all-nature beauty and haircare line
  • Joe Robinson, founder of the creative clothing store Fat Tiger Workshop
  • Eric Williams, creator of the Silver Room, a retail emporium and collaborative that hosts an annual block party to support the rise of other local businesses

See the press release below for more information on the film.


A new feature-length documentary exploring the history

of African American entrepreneurship


Tuesday, April 23 on WTTW11 and 

Directed by award-winning filmmaker Stanley Nelson, this new film tells the largely

unknown stories of enterprising African Americans – many of them Chicagoans


CHICAGO – The history of business and entrepreneurship lies at the heart of the American story, but African Americans are often absent from that narrative. The new two-hour documentary BOSS: THE BLACK EXPERIENCE IN BUSINESS traces the lives of African American entrepreneurs from Chicago and around the country over 150 years, from those bound by bondage to moguls at the top of million-dollar empires. The film, which includes the inspiring stories of Robert Abbott and the creation of The Chicago Defender newspaper; the rise of the Johnson Publishing empire (Ebony and Jet magazines) and its charismatic founder John H. Johnson; haircare innovators and early self-made millionaires Annie Malone and Madam C.J. Walker; and John B. Rogers, founder and CEO of Chicago’s Ariel Investments (who is interviewed in the film), premieres on WTTW11 and on Tuesday, April 23 at 8:00 pm.


WTTW will also release three digital videos – on and WTTW’s social platforms – profiling young Chicago-area black entrepreneurs Joe Robinson, founder of Fat Tiger Workshop, which uses creatively designed t-shirts to engage with pop culture and inspire youth; Monique Rodriguez, founder of the successful Mielle haircare line; and Eric Williams, creator of The Silver Room, a Hyde Park retail emporium and arts collaborative that engages with his community through events, including an annual block party to raise the profile of other local businesses.


Also, on Saturday, April 20 at 2:00 pm, WTTW host a public screening and panel discussion of the film at the Chicago Cultural Center in the Claudia Cassidy Theater, 78 E. Washington Street.


Directed by Peabody- and Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Stanley Nelson (Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Historically Black Colleges, The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution and Freedom Summer), BOSS: THE BLACK EXPERIENCE IN BUSINESS highlights resilience and resistance within the black American experience in the face of racial hostility and violence, economic exclusion, segregation and discrimination. In addition to the stories told above, included in the film are the Great Migration from the south to Chicago; the precipitous rise and tragic fall of Tulsa’s Greenwood Avenue, America’s “Black Wall Street”; profiles of Motown CEO Berry Gordy and business pioneer and philanthropist Reginald F. Lewis, and more. Their stories are told by noted historians and scholars, and such business luminaries as Ursula Burns, former CEO of Xerox and chairman of VEON; Vernon Jordan, senior managing director of Lazard, Freres & Co. LLC and top advisor to President Bill Clinton; Cathy Hughes, CEO and founder of Urban One; Ken Frazier, chairman, president, and CEO of Merck & Co., Inc.; and more.


“African Americans have played a central role in the history of American business, but their stories are often left untold,” said Nelson. “Today, as we see talented black businessmen and women not only building successful companies in mainstream America, but also emerging as managers and CEOs for some of the most powerful corporate entities in the world, BOSS: THE BLACK EXPERIENCE IN BUSINESS shares the remarkable stories of a community facing tremendous obstacles to pursue social, political, and economic progress.”



BOSS: THE BLACK EXPERIENCE IN BUSINESS is a Firelight Films production for THIRTEEN Productions LLC, in association with The HistoryMakers, the nation’s largest African American video oral history archive. Stanley Nelson is director and producer. Traci Curry is producer. Marcia Smith is writer. The film is narrated by Tamara Tunie. For The HistoryMakers: Julieanna Richardson is co-executive producer. For THIRTEEN: Lesley Norman is executive producer. Benjamin Phelps is coordinating producer. Stephen Segaller is executive in charge.

Major funding for BOSS: THE BLACK EXPERIENCE IN BUSINESS is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and Citigroup. Additional funding is provided by The JPB Foundation as part of Chasing the Dream, a public media initiative from WNET reporting on poverty, jobs and opportunity in America; and by Fairview Capital, Yusef Kassim, and public television viewers.


About WTTW

WTTW is the PBS member station in Chicago, committed to creating and presenting unique media content across distinct television and digital channels – WTTW11, WTTW Prime, WTTW Create/WTTW World, WTTW PBS Kids 24/7, and the PBS/WTTW video app. Recognized for award-winning journalism and local productions such as Chicago Tonight, Chicago River Tour, Check, Please!, digital-first series Urban Nature and Foodphiles and national productions 10 That Changed America and Nature Cat, WTTW presents the very best in public affairs, arts and culture, nature and science, history and documentary, and children’s public media content. Connect with WTTW on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.



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