In honor of Black History Month, Nielsen recognizes the contributions of black inventors, athletes, businesses and pioneers across several industries as well as the impact they’ve had on society—impact that is still evident today.
Compiled by SABLE (Sustaining Active Black Leadership and Empowerment), the African American Employee Resource Group at Nielsen.
Power Fact: Frederick McKinley Jones was an African-American inventor and entrepreneur who secured 61 patents for refrigeration equipment and X-ray technology. He invented the first successful system for mobile refrigeration, which was a significant advancement for the long-haul transportation of perishable goods, and was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2007.
Impact: McKinley Jones’s innovations in mobile refrigeration have driven significant dollar volume growth over the years for fresh food and perishables such as fresh meat, produce, bakery and deli items. Notably, that dollar volume growth continues today, as sales of fresh food in the U.S. for the year ending September 2012 grew 5 percent over the year prior.
Power Fact: Kenneth J. Dunkley, the current the president of Holospace Laboratories Inc., is credited with inventing the first pair of 3-D viewing glasses. Mr. Dunkley discovered that blocking two points in a person’s peripheral vision will cause an ordinary picture to appear three dimensional. So he invented his Three Dimensional Viewing Glasses (3-DVG) to block out these points and display 3-D effects from regular 2-D images.
Impact: 3-D movies are a multi-million dollar business. Forty-two percent of moviegoers saw a 3-D movie last year, and Mr. Dunkley’s 3-DVG technology was the starting point for what has become an integral and pervasive part of the American moviegoing experience.
Power Fact: BET was first black-owned company to be listed on the NYSE, and Bob Johnson, former owner, was the first African-American billionaire.
Impact: BET, now owned by Viacom, was the highest ranked cable network among African-Americans for the cable primetime daypart in 2012.
Power Fact: Gerald Lawson, a largely self-taught engineer, became a pioneer in the electronic video game industry. While his video game innovations were many, he is most known for creating the first home console with interchangeable cartridges. His Fairchild Channel F system brought video gaming into the home, allowing users the flexibility to purchase and play a variety of games from the comfort of their homes rather than having to visit an arcade to play them.
Impact: Today, there are more than 51 million game console devices in U.S. TV households, and more than half of all U.S. households own a seventh-generation game console (e.g., PS3, Wii, Xbox 360).
Power Fact: Roots is a U.S. television miniseries based on Alex Haley’s novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family that first aired in 1977. The miniseries was revolutionary in many ways. First, it spawned a new television format—the consecutive-night miniseries. Previous miniseries ran in weekly installments. The show also defied industry conventions about the perceived negative impact that black-oriented programming would have on ratings.
Impact: The seven-part Roots series averaged a 44.9 household rating, meaning 45 percent of U.S. TV homes tuned in, on average. The Roots series was so well received that the final episode in the series is the third-highest rated program in history with a 51.1 rating, as 36 million households tuned in when it aired live.
Power Fact: Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball when he ended 60 years of segregated leagues by becoming a second baseman for the Brooklyn Dodgers. He was the first black MVP and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1962.
Impact: Mr. Robinson’s accomplishments paved the way for some of today’s most marketable African-American athletes. In fact, seven of the top 25 most marketable active athletes are black: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Gabby Douglas, Venus and Serena Williams, Derek Jeter, Kobe Bryant and Usain Bolt.
Power Fact: Joseph L. Searles III became the first black floor member and broker at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) on Feb. 12, 1970. At the time, the NYSE had been in existence for 178 years. Regarding his achievement, Mr. Searles III is quoted as saying “It’s a personal challenge to me as a black man to become part of the economic mainstream of this country. I don’t believe I’ll become a token black. I think there will be more black members at the exchange. Hopefully, my presence will increase the credibility of the financial community, as far as blacks are concerned.”
Impact: A pioneer in the financial industry, Mr. Searles opened the door for African-Americans to engage in all aspects of finance. In fact, African-American men are 19 percent more likely to monitor stocks online than the average American man.
For additional insight as we celebrate Black History Month this year, check out this video highlighting Black Consumer Power Facts on Nielsen’s YouTube page.