Business historian Juliet E. K. Walker refers to the era from 1900 to 1930 as the "golden age of black business" where "leading black capitalists . . . reflected their success within a black economy, which developed in response to the nation's rise of two worlds of race."4 African Americans who attended HBS during this time went on to make significant contributions in diverse fields and in their communities. Norris B. Herndon, for example, played a pivotal role in his family's insurance company, one of the largest African American owned businesses in Atlanta. H. Naylor Fitzhugh served as an influential professor at Howard University and assumed a senior executive position at the Pepsi–Cola Company. The accomplishment of other graduates such as Benjamin Tanner Johnson and Monroe Davis Dowling were deeply felt in both the private and public sectors. From 1915 to the founding of the African-American Student Union in 1968, however, fewer than 50 African American students had attended HBS.

Norris Bumstead Herndon, MBA 1921

After earning his MBA, Norris B. Herndon returned to Atlanta to oversee the growth of the Atlanta Life Insurance Company (today the Atlanta Life Financial Group), founded by his father Alonzo. Herndon continued his family's tradition of philanthropy with major financial contributions to the United Negro College Fund and the NAACP.

Benjamin Tanner Johnson, MBA 1921

Benjamin Tanner Johnson was a tireless champion for African American owned banks and eventually helped found the New England People's Finance Company (an African American bank and lender). He also worked as a Connecticut state supervisor in the Works Progress Administration (WPA), taught finance at Howard University, and was executive secretary in the Urban League of Canton, Ohio.

Monroe Davis Dowling, MBA 1931

Upon graduation from HBS, Monroe Davis Dowling worked for the Colored Merchants' Association (CMA), a cooperative of stores that specifically supported the needs of Black grocers. A close friend of Justice Thurgood Marshall, Dowling served in managerial roles for the U.S. Department of Internal Revenue, the American Cancer Society, and the New Jersey Urban League.

Howard Naylor Fitzhugh, MBA 1933

After earning his MBA, H. Naylor Fitzhugh became a professor of accounting at Howard University, where he taught for over 30 years. There he developed the marketing program and organized the Howard University Small Business Development Center. He joined the Pepsi–Cola Company in 1965. The first African American executive at the company, he made pioneering contributions to the field of target marketing as vice president for special markets. Fitzhugh was long recognized and revered for his role as a mentor and for the impact he made on the lives of African American students, including Lillian Lincoln Lambert (MBA '69), one of the founders of AASU. In 1996, HBS endowed the H. Naylor Fitzhugh professorship, and in 2002 AASU renamed its annual conference in his honor.
Juliet E. K. Walker, The History of Black Business in America: Capitalism, Race, Entrepreneurship, volume 2, 2nd ed. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2009, 183.