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Which Is the Oldest Black-Owned Company? Tracing the Legacy Through Time

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The E.E. Ward Moving & Storage is the oldest black-owned company in the United States. Over the past 140 years, the small black-owned business in Columbus, Ohio, has survived two World Wars, the Great Depression, 25 presidents, and the Great Recession. 

The company was formerly known as the oldest consistently operating black-owned venture in the United States by the Department of Commerce and mentioned in the Congressional Record. Continue reading to learn more about the longest-operating black-owned business in the United States.

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About E.E. Ward Moving & Storage Company 

Story of E.E Ward Moving & Storage Company by @goblackown YouTube Channel

William Ward and his father, John T. Ward, founded E.E. Ward Moving & Storage in 1881. They started off with just a wagon and two horses and have survived and evolved over the decades. Currently, E.E. Ward Moving & Storage owns a fleet of around a group of long-haul trucks and two warehouses in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Columbus. 

Additionally, E.E. Ward Moving & Storage is also a carrier for North American Van Lines. To learn about other black-owned businesses, check these black history books on Amazon

People Also Read: Why it is Crucial to Support Black-owned Businesses on Both Corporate and Consumer Levels

The Journey of  E.E. Ward Moving & Storage

E.E. Ward Moving & Storage’s journey started in the 1840s when John T. Ward worked as a conductor on the Underground Railroad. During this time, he used his wagon and horses to help slaves escape to freedom via safe houses and a network of hiding places. 

Then, during the Civil War, Ward got government contracts to move equipment and supplies for the United States Army. His son Williams Ward became interested in the business and learned ropes. 

In 1881, the father and son established the Ward Transfer Line. They changed the name of the brand to E.E. Ward Transfer and Storage Company in 1899 after the company added storage to their services. 

E.E. Ward Moving & Storage company started using vehicles in the early 1900s, stopping the use of horse-powered moving teams in 1921. By 1925, they expanded to more business clients, adding the Steinway Piano Company. 

Eldon Ward, William’s grandson, joined the company in 1945 and was the last Ward family member to own the business. 

Retaining E.E. Ward Moving & Storage Legacy 

In 1996, when Eldon Ward decided to leave the company and retire to Phoenix, no succession plan was in place. Plus, Eldon Ward didn’t have any child who would take over from him and continue running the business. 

“His niece was running the company after Eldon Ward, but was thinking of closing or selling it, says” Brain Brook, who is currently the business’ president. For two decades, Brook’s dad was E.E. Ward’ lawyer. 

E.E. Ward and Brook’s parents were so attached that Eldon was Brooks’ godfather. So, when it looked like the company was about to leave Ward’s family hand, Brook’s mom begged him to help preserve the E.E. Ward legacy. 

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At that time, Brook was already helping to run his own family real estate company and was pursuing his MBA at Franklin University in Columbus. However, he started researching about the industry since he didn’t know much about it. 

Brook ended up purchasing the company with a business partner in April 2001 for an undisclosed amount. Check these guides on Amazon if you run a family business and want to retain the legacy. 

People Also Read: 8 Meaningful Ways You Can Uplift Black-Owned Businesses

New Phase of the Oldest Black-Owned Business 

When Betty and Brooks took over the company’s management, its offices were in a small building in downtown Columbus. At the time, the business had just five movers and drivers, two office personnel, four trucks, and four trailers. They were making around $300,000 in a year. 

The new owners struggled to run the business after the acquisition, as they were a lot to learn. Currently, the business is excelling and makes over $5 million in sales annually. 

E.E Ward is the longest-operating African American-owned business in the United States. Over the years, the company has survived both good and bad times. E.E. Ward Moving & Storage is a company that other black-owned businesses should study and learn. 

If you would like to start your own business but don’t know how, get an entrepreneurship guide from Amazon

People Also Read: What Will It Take to Build More Black-Owned Businesses?

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Uchenna Agwu
Uchenna Agwu
Hi there! I’m Uchenna Agwu, and I love to write. When I’m not writing, you can usually find me reading books or watching documentaries (I’m a bit of a nerd). But I also like to get out and explore – whether that means going on hikes or checking out new restaurants.


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