He Built The First Black-Owned Car Company

Serpollet steam carriage of modern french design
Shonda Buchanan
November 19, 2020

When he heard the clackity noise of horse hooves – combined with the POP of a car engine – an idea suddenly sparked. Could he turn his dead father’s carriage-building company into something bigger?

Frederick Patterson ran into the office, swiped everything off his desk, and drew up his own vision. But would whites try to crush his company – or worse, KILL him – if he competed with them? 

He raced to the factory with his design, yelling for work to halt on the carriages. They were going to make CARS! His workers looked scared. Wasn’t it dangerous to compete with white automobile makers? But he wouldn’t let fear keep him from following his dream.

No, this son of a once-enslaved man decided he’d keep at it. A former teacher named after abolitionist Frederick Douglass, he desperately wanted to live up to his father’s bravery and reputation. Soon, Patterson automobiles were rolling off the production lines!

Frederick Patterson poured everything he had into his dream of building the Patterson-Greenfield Automobile in 1915. Though they made cars for only three years, he’d chased his dream and determined his own fate. Like Patterson, through our hard work, we can determine our own destinies if we hold on to our dreams!  

What are you doing to determine your fate?

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