"We are not makers of history. We are made by history." --Martin Luther King, Jr.
February is national Black History Month, a time we dedicate to honor and remember the important people and events in the history of the African diaspora. We'd like to take this time to celebrate people and organizations who have advanced opportunities for African Americans in the accounting industry.
Founded in 1969, nine African-Americans met in New York City to discuss the unique challenges and limited opportunities they were facing in the accounting profession. That year, there were only 136 African-American CPAs out of the 100,000 total in the United States. Coming together to provide a community of resources, support, and opportunities, they created the National Association of Black Accountants, or NABA, Inc. With over 8,000 members, the organization has successfully joined with other interested groups to aid over 200,000 African Americans to become a part of the accounting field and have led over 5,000 to receive their CPA license. Today, they continue to create opportunities for African Americans to influence every level of accounting, finance, business, and IT.
The AICPA celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2009 of its Minority Initiatives Committee, which was founded in 1969 during the Civil Rights Movement. Striving to assist underrepresented minorities in becoming CPAs and advancing their presence and retention in the accounting profession, the MIC has granted scholarships/fellowships and performed leadership conferences to address the needs and create opportunities for minorities in the accounting field. Since its inception, the AICPA has distributed more than $14 million in 10,000 scholarships and awards and increased minorities to become 26% of bachelors enrollments in the accounting field.
Some Noteworthy African American CPAs in the Industry
Mary T. Washington: First African American Woman to Earn a CPA
Starting as a bank assistant at Binga State Bank, one of the nations largest African-American owned banks, Washington received her B.A. in Business from Northwestern University in 1941. While a student, she started her own accounting firm in her basement. In 1943, she earned her CPA license, becoming the first black woman to do so and the 13th African American CPA in the country. She founded Washington, Pittman & McKeever in 1968, still one of the largest African American CPA firms today, and retired at the age of 79. She passed away on June 2, 2005 at 99 years old. Washington serves not only as an important figure in Chicagos African-American business community, but also opened a gateway of opportunities for African Americans to pursue careers in accounting and finance.
Nathan Garrett: First African American to Open His Own Practice in North Carolina
Earning his CPA in 1961, Garrett became the 5th African-American CPA in Michigan and the 63rd in the United States. A year later, he opened his own practice in North Carolina, the first African American to do so, becoming controller of the North Carolina Fund and then deputy director. He is the chairman emeritus of the board of directors for North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance and has also served as president of the National Association of Minority CPA Firms, NASBA, and the North Carolina Association of Minority Businesses. As a retired CPA today, he teaches The Legal Environment of Business at North Carolina Central Universitys School of Business. He states, "I probably would not have become a CPA had it not been for Richard Austin, George Washington and Ernest Davenport: black CPAs and partners in a Detroit firmthey not only hired me, they mentored me."
We hope you take the time this month to not only celebrate African American progress, identity, and history, but also to appreciate the people, organizations, movements, and leaders working toward incorporating all people to be more inclusive in the professional field of Accounting.