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How the Nation’s Oldest Black-Owned Business Survived 141 Years

E.E. Ward Moving & Storage Co. is not your run-of-the-mill moving company. John T. Ward founded it in 1881, in Columbus, Ohio, making it now the oldest Black-owned business in the nation.

But Ward was more than an entrepreneur; he was a conductor on the Underground Railroad first. He transported enslaved people from one depot to the next using two horses and a wagon. 

Brian Brooks and his wife Dominique Brooks, owners of E.E. Ward Moving & Storage in Columbus, OH, stand outside a moving truck on February 26, 2019. E.E. Ward Moving & Storage is the oldest continuously operating black-owned business in the United States.

After slavery was abolished, he turned his means of transportation into a moving company and later passed it on to his son, William Ward. Then William’s son, Edgar Earl Ward, began running the firm in 1899. Later Eldon, Ward, William’s grandson, joined the family business in 1945, making him the last Ward family member to own the company.

Eldon didn’t have any children to carry on the succession, but Brian Brooks, a Black entrepreneur, took over as co-owner of the company. Brian’s father was E.E. Ward’s attorney for 20 years and their families were so close Eldon Earl Ward was Brian’s godfather.

Eldon Ward, great-grandson of the founder of E.E. Ward Moving & Storage Co.

Determined to keep the business alive, Brian bought the firm from Eldon with his business partner in April 2001. When his associate left the company in 2014, Dominique, Brian’s wife, replaced him. She manages the firm’s branding and marketing.

Before E.E. Ward, Brian had little experience with the moving industry, but he had an MBA from Franklin University and experience planning his family’s real estate business.

E.E. Ward moving trucks.

E.E. Ward truly stood the test of time. The company survived the Jim Crow South, the Reconstruction era, the civil rights movement, and a pandemic. E.E. Ward has moved like an unstoppable train for the past 140 years, and thanks to new owners Brian and Dominique Brooks, that engine is still going. 

Read full story at Finurah here.

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