wendell scott looking out of the window of his racecar

In celebration of Black History Month, we would like to highlight a few of the great achievements made by Black trailblazers in the automotive marketing industry.


Homer B Roberts

The first Black car dealer


black and white portrait of Homer B. Roberts



Courtesy of www.historyofaacardealers.com


In 1919, after serving in World War I, Roberts returned to his home town of Kansas City and began selling cars.


Roberts understood the power of advertising, placing ads in The Kansas City Sun, the prominent local African American newspaper. His ‘cutting edge’ advertisements were quickly responded to by the Black community and his business prospered. By 1921, he had acquired offices and showrooms, hired two salesmen, and experienced rapid growth.


In 1923, he opened a brand-new dealership named Roberts Company Motor Mart. Smaller automobile manufacturers saw potential in the African American market and backed his business. This helped Roberts land franchises with Hupmobile, Rickenbacker and Oldsmobile.


The dealership couldn’t escape the grasp the Great Depression had on many businesses, and it closed in 1929. Even so, Roberts forever changed the way society thought about inclusion in automotive retail.



C.R. Patterson

Founder of the world’s first and only Black automotive company


old photo of man in front of ocar



Courtesy of the Historical Society of Greenfield, Ohio, www.greenfieldhistoricalsociety.org.


Born as a slave in Virginia, Patterson’s story is one of rags to riches. Once he escaped, he settled in Greenfield, Ohio. With his new found freedom he got started in the carriage making industry, and in 1893, started his own company called C.R. Patterson & Sons.


It was a successful business employing an integrated workforce of 35-50 by the turn of the century, and Charles Patterson became a prominent and respected citizen in Greenfield. His catalog listed some 28 models, from simple open buggies to larger and more expensive closed carriages for doctors and other professionals.



1957 Chrysler Ads

First car advertisements featuring Black models


woman in dress standing by 1957 Plymouth car



1957 Plymouth convertible ad


After World War II ended, many Black Americans continued to move from the South and were now working for automakers. During this period, more people from all cultures were purchasing new automobiles, so the automotive market needed to adapt.


In the early 50’s, Chrysler was one of the first companies to buy advertising in Ebony magazine. A few years later, in 1957, they became the first major automotive company to feature Black models in their print ads. It took no time at all for other manufacturers to follow suite.



Wendell Scott

Breaking color barriers, one lap at a time


Wendell Scott posing in his car after wining his match



ISC via Getty Images


In 1952, Scott became the first Black driver to compete in an official stock car race. After nearly a decade of being denied entry into NASCAR, Scott was able to get in with the help of Mike Poston, who granted Scott a NASCAR License after cautioning him, “We’ve never had any Black drivers, and you’re going to be knocked around.”


To which Scott replied, “I can take it.”


Only two years later, in 1963, Wendell Scott became the first Black driver to win a top level NASCAR race at Speedway Park in Florida, though he had to fight to even be granted the title after it was given to a different driver mistakenly. He eventually got the prize money, but never received the recognition (or trophy) he deserved for that victory.


Though he was still banned from many races in his career, Scott achieved one win and 147 top ten finishes in 495 career Grand National starts.


He was simply a racer at heart, and only wanted the chance to prove himself, which he did time and time again. He blazed the trail for many more to follow.



Like nearly any other aspect of America’s past, countless names and events have been lost or forgotten through the years. Black pioneers have made innumerable contributions to the industry. Even when the world that wasn’t on their side, they kept on pushing for equal representation.


“When it’s too tough for everyone else, it’s just right for me.”

             -Wendell Scott

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