From Coal to Coins, Robert Gordon Sought A Way Out of Slavery

coal plant in operation
Via Pxfuel
Adé Hennis
May 5, 2023

In 1846, Robert Gordon bought his freedom all from selling the coal he had at his disposal. This would be just the beginning of his philanthropic journey, as he would help start a pattern of Black people succeeding in the coal industry.

After he was free, Gordon continued to buy coal using an innovative method. He employed white-passing biracial men to buy cheaper coal from his competitors. That allowed him to flip that coal for profit.

Gordon used his profits to invest in real estate, and most importantly give back to the local Cincinnati community. He built schools, and his estate provided shelter for Black women and orphans. Black coal entrepreneurs continue to thrive today because of his groundwork.

For example, Mike Teke currently serves as the CEO of Seriti, a 91 percent Black-owned and controlled South African coal mining company. He’s helped the country use coal for necessities as they transition towards using more sustainable renewable energy.

While the use of coal has negative effects on the planet, it’s important we find more sustainable ways to become financially free and like Robert Gordon and Mike Teke, give back to our communities.

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