Black History Month is a opportunity to educate and enhance our existing perspectives and perceptions. In this final installment, we recognize Black pioneers and leaders who have forever changed our advertising, marketing, PR, events & experiential industries.

Ana Aponte-Curtis

Ana Aponte-Curtis was the long-time VP of Events for the NAACP and former Chair of the National Coalition of Black Meeting Planners (NCBMP). During her tenure with the NAACP, she was responsible for directing the internal operation of the Events Planning Department, implementing approved objectives, plans and policies, provided the overall management and budgetary oversights for all NAACP events, including conferences, meeting, travel, vendor negotiations, logistics, exhibits and entertainment. Her mission was to ensure that when there was a discussion about the hospitality industry, NCBMP had a seat at the table. (Source)

John H. Johnson

John H. Johnson is widely regarded as the most influential African American publisher in American history. While attending University of Chicago, he was inspired to make his first publication after taking a job at an insurance company compiling news clippings for his boss. After graduating, he took out a loan and raised enough money through charter subscriptions to launch Negro Digest, which later became Black World. Three years later he launched Ebony, which has remained the number-one African American magazine in the world every year since its founding. In 1951, Johnson Publishing expanded again, with the creation of Jet, the world’s largest African American news weekly magazine. (Source)

Thomas J. Burrell

Thomas J. Burrell is a marketing communications leader and change-agent credited with revolutionizing the use of positive and realistic images of African Americans in television advertising. He became a pioneer of target marketing and built Burrell Advertising, the largest black-owned advertising agency in the United States. He developed breakthrough advertising campaigns for Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Procter & Gamble by focusing on the emotional appeal of their products – an approach that resonated with both whites and blacks. (Source)

Carol H. Williams

Carol Williams founded Carol H. Williams Advertising (CHWA) more than three decades ago after recognizing the need for advertising that speaks to the sophisticated and influential African American and ethnic markets. Williams worked in the era depicted in the hit television series Mad Men, when few women and fewer Blacks were in decision-making positions. Still, she was breaking barriers. Ms. Williams eventually became the first woman to be a creative director at Leo Burnett, the creative mind behind major campaigns for Pillsbury, Secret and Disney. Referred to as “the most recognized woman in advertising,” Williams has received numerous professional honors and community awards during her career, including becoming the first African American female creative director to be inducted into the American Advertising Federation’s Advertising Hall of Fame. (Source)

Patricia Tobin

For 25 years in Los Angeles Patricia Tobin was viewed by many as a queen of public relations, master of the fine art of networking, and guru of event planning, particularly among the L.A.’s African American community. Tobin began her career as a broadcaster and earned an associate’s degree from Charles Morris Price School of Journalism. Because there were few opportunities for people of color in her field, Tobin decided to start her own company. She left her broadcasting job and began Tobin and Associates in 1983. Not many major corporate advertisers appreciated the power of the African American consumer at the time, but Tobin understood the challenge was to persuade clients of the value of a specialty firm to reach ethnic consumers. (Source)

Howard F. Mills

Howard F. Mills, Sr. was a dynamic, results-oriented professional with an extensive business background that included over 30 years as the chief meeting or conference planner for the National Urban League. A tireless advocate for inclusion and advancement of African Americans in the industry, Howard co-founded the National Coalition of Black Meeting Planners (NCBMP) in 1983 for the purpose of educating young people about the profession and promoting planning as a career. It was also at Howard’s constant urging that Black Meetings & Tourism Magazine was created to serve the needs of African-Americans in the meetings industry.(Source)

Read on for more stories and additional resources into the rich diversity of our industry:

29 Black Leaders in Events

Most Influential African Americans in Meetings/Tourism Industry

Black Owned Event and Experiential Agencies

Go back to: Part One | Part Two | Part Three