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Famous Black Accountants

Shattering Stereotypes: The Achievements of Famous Black Accountants

Representation is vital in accounting and finance for many reasons. Companies and industries can better serve a diverse clientele when they have a diverse workforce.

Employees from different backgrounds help identify and solve complex problems more effectively.

A diverse workforce can help companies avoid groupthink, which can lead to better decision-making.

Black accountants bring a unique perspective to the industry. As members of an underrepresented group, black CPAs have often experienced bias and discrimination, which has given them a deeper understanding of the importance of diversity and inclusion.

They’re more likely to recognize that creating a welcoming and inclusive work environment can lead to higher employee satisfaction, engagement, and productivity.

Globalization and technology make it more imperative than ever to have a diverse workforce.

But It wouldn’t be possible for future generations of black accountants to succeed without the early pioneers of black accounting.

The Legacy of Famous Black Accountants

1. John W. Cromwell Jr

John W. Cromwell Jr. was an absolute trailblazer and the first black partner at a major accounting firm, Peat Marwick Mitchell (which is now KPMG, in case you’re wondering).

Born in 1901 in Washington D.C., Cromwell faced some serious barriers due to his race but he didn’t let that hold him back. He got his degree in accounting from Dartmouth College in 1926 & became a licensed CPA in 1931.

But Cromwell’s achievements didn’t stop there. In 1943, he was appointed as a partner at Peat Marwick Mitchell, making him a true pioneer and breaking down barriers for future generations of black CPAs.

And you know what’s inspiring about Cromwell?

His dedication to his profession and his commitment to excellence. He becomes the first black partner at a major accounting firm.

John W. Cromwell Jr. was a true boss and a total inspiration. His achievements serve as an inspiration to all those who seek to promote diversity & inclusion in the accounting industry.

2. Bert N. Mitchell

Back in 1965, Bert made history by becoming the 100th of Famous Black Accountants.

That’s right, he broke down barriers and paved the way for many other people of color to get into the accounting game.

And he didn’t stop there.

Bert went on to found Mitchell & Titus LLP, the biggest black-owned CPA business in the country.

Bert’s dedication to giving back and mentoring the next generation of accountants. He’s taught accounting at the college level and started his foundation to provide scholarships and mentorship to young black accountants.

3. Robert J. Abbott

Robert J. Abbott was the founder of the Chicago Defender newspaper & a trained accountant.

As a young man, he moved to Chicago & founded the newspaper in 1905.

He recognized the importance of financial literacy for African Americans, and he used his platform as the newspaper’s founder to promote opportunity in the accounting field. He trained as an accountant & later became a licensed CPA.

As a black accountant, he promoted the field of accounting to African Americans because he knew the power of financial education.

Abbott’s dedication to promoting financial literacy and opportunity helped to pave the way for future generations of African American accountants.

4. Jesse Blayton: First Black CPA

Jesse Blayton was the first black CPA in the United States.

Blayton recognized the need for more black accountants & worked tirelessly to create opportunities for aspiring professionals.

In 1921, he founded the Atlanta School of Commerce, which helped black students to get an education & training in accounting.

His efforts to promote the development of black accountants did not end with the founding of the Atlanta School of Commerce.

He provided scholarships & mentorship to aspiring professionals and was instrumental in creating a pipeline of talented and motivated black accountants.

Blayton’s commitment to diversity has left a lasting impression.

5. Wilmer F. Lucas

Wilmer started accounting in the 1960s and quickly made a name for himself.

He was known for his expertise in accounting & tax planning, and his clients included some seriously big names in the music industry, like Diana Ross and The Supremes.

Wilmer became the first black partner at Touche Ross (Now Deloitte). He was not just an accountant but a mentor, a philanthropist, & a leader in his community.

He founded the Wilmer F. Lucas Scholarship Fund provides financial assistance to students pursuing careers in accounting. He was active in several other organizations that aimed to promote diversity in the accounting industry.

6. Mary T. Washington: First Black Woman CPA

Mary T. Washington was the first black woman CPA in the United States.

Washington faced many obstacles on her path to becoming a CPA.

She was denied admission to several accounting programs because of her race & gender, but she persevered and eventually earned her CPA license in 1943.

Washington’s accomplishments were groundbreaking, and she used her platform to promote diversity and inclusion in the field of accounting.

NABA was started in 1969 as a way to connect black accountants, share information, and advocate for change.

Her dedication to promoting diversity and inclusion in the field of accounting has had a lasting impact. The NABA has grown into a thriving organization with over 200 chapters and thousands of members.

All of us in the accounting industry should be inspired by Washington’s legacy.

The Need for More Famous Black Accountants

While black accountants contribute significantly, more representation is still needed in the industry. As of 2023, only 1% of partners in the top 100 accounting firms were black. And only 8.5% of U.S. CPAs are black.

It’s problematic for lots of reasons.

  • Black accountants can struggle to find mentors & role models, making it more challenging for them to advance in their careers.
  • Harder for black clients to find accountants who understand their unique needs & concerns.
  • Companies must prioritize creating a more equitable and productive work environment.
  • Famous Black accountants have played an essential role in promoting diversity, and their contributions should be celebrated and recognized.

Role of AICPA National Commission

The AICPA National Commission promotes diversity and inclusion in the accounting profession.

The commission comprises representatives from accounting firms, academic institutions, & other organizations and works to increase the representation of underrepresented groups in the profession.

The commission also promotes the development of diversity initiatives within firms and organizations

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