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PHOTO ESSAY

Black Women Entrepreneurs

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Suzanne de Passe

Suzanne de Passe has won numerous awards including Emmys, Peabodys, and Golden Globes. She is so well known for her managerial abilities that Harvard Business School has conducted two studies of her management style. Courtesy the Austin/Thompson Collection, by permission of De Passe Entertainment.

The twentieth century has seen the slow emergence of black women in positions of corporate authority, a number of them in the entertainment industry. Suzanne de Passe (1948– ) was one of the first African American women to become a power player in the music, television, and film industries. Beginning her career as a creative assistant at Motown Records in the 1960s, de Passe rose to become a vice president of the company before turning her attention to screenwriting. After achieving acclaim for works such as Lady Sings the Blues, the successful film biography of Billie Holiday, de Passe eventually founded her own entertainment company, de Passe Entertainment, that primarily produces material for television. Her ability to balance her projects' creative integrity with the bottom line has proven so successful that Harvard Business School has conducted two studies of her managerial style. De Passe's versatility, creative integrity, and sound business sense has enabled her to become one of the most influential women in the entertainment industry today.

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