Kimbro, Dennis 1950—
Dennis Kimbro 1950—
Author, educator, motivational speaker
Dennis Kimbro is an enthusiastic and vocal supporter of self-help for African Americans. His best-selling books and popular lectures are meant to encourage black entrepreneurship—nothing less, he might say, than the creation of a legion of black self-made millionaires. The director of Clark Atlanta University’s Center for Entrepreneurship, Kimbro designs courses and programs that show minority students how to start their own businesses and how to make those businesses grow and succeed. His ideas are outlined in his 1991 book Think and Grow Rich: A Black Choice, a work USA Today reporter Rhonda Richards described as a “bible” for the would-be black capitalist.
Kimbro’s philosophy is decidedly conservative. He recognizes that racism is a fact of life in the United States. But he contends that it need not deter black people from achieving their goals. In his books and lectures he profiles black Americans who succeeded—often fantastically—despite poverty-stricken childhoods, discrimination, and limited opportunities. He extols the values of hard work, personal initiative, religious faith, and compassion, and suggests that no dream is too big to achieve if one approaches it with the right attitude and a willingness to work. As Kimbro himself put it in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, blacks must realize that “the greatest power you will ever have is within yourself. It’s not a question of affirmative action but personal action.”
Kimbro has noted in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he himself is “living proof that if you use these principles and put them into action, you can succeed.” Born in Jersey City, New Jersey, in 1950, he put himself through college at Oklahoma University, earning a bachelor’s degree in 1972, and then North-western University, where he received a Ph.D. in political economy in 1984. He was a successful salesman for the Smithkline Beckman pharmaceutical corporation, earning upwards of $55,000 per year while simultaneously attending graduate school.
For his doctoral dissertation, Kimbro studied wealth and poverty in lesser developed countries and in the United States. While working on that study, he began researching the biographies of some of America’s most successful black people. He quickly became fascinated by their
At a Glance…
Born Dennis Paul Kimbro, December 29, 1950, in Jersey City, NJ; son of Donald and Mary Kimbro; married Patricia McCauley, 1972; children: Kelli, Kim, MacKenzie. Education: Oklahoma University, B.A, 1972; Northwestern University, Ph.D., 1984.
Smithkline Beckman Corp., worked in sales and marketing, 1978–87; ABC Management Consultants, Inc., consultant, 1988–91; Center for Entrepreneurship, Clark Atlanta University School of Business and Administration, associate professor and director, 1992—.
Selected awards: Dale Carnegie Personal Achievement Award, 1988; Award of Excellence, Texas Association of Black Personnel in Higher Education, 1992.
Addresses: Home —3806 Brandeis Ct., Decatur, GA 30034.
life stories—how many of them had overcome enormous obstacles to find success and wealth in a racist society. In 1984 Kimbro decided to make personal contact with as many of the people as he could and interview them about their achievements, with the goal of putting the stories into a book. “I was obsessed with knowing the answer to this question: What makes some people succeed, and what makes some people fail?” he recalled in the Chicago Tribune. “People told me I was wasting my time doing this book, that I would never get it published.”
Undaunted by the naysayers, Kimbro left his position with Smithkline Beckman and began his pursuit of the black elite. When word of his project reached the conservators of the Napoleon Hill Foundation, one of its members, publisher W. Clement Stone, placed an interesting proposition before Kimbro. The late author Napoleon Hill had written a Depression-era classic, Think and Grow Rich. At the time of his death in 1970 he had been working on a version of his best-seller aimed at a black audience. Stone offered the incomplete manuscript to Kimbro and invited him to finish it. The offer came without financial compensation—Kimbro was expected to fund the project himself. What followed for Kimbro was “seven years of hell and high water,” the author conceded in Newsday. Forced to liquidate his savings and to scrape by with part-time jobs—and even at one point compelled to send his three daughters home to New Jersey to live with his parents—Kimbro persisted. He was sustained by his faith in the project, and ultimately that faith was rewarded.
Napoleon Hill’s manuscript for Think and Grow Rich: A Black Choice, was a mere 100 pages. Kimbro used Hill’s work as a base but expanded the project’s scope to include detailed profiles of a number of the most successful black Americans. Kimbro interviewed novelist Alice Walker and opera singer Leontyne Price; he talked to publishers Earl Graves and John H. Johnson; he profiled entrepreneurs as diverse as the late cosmetics manufacturer Madame C. J. Walker and the flamboyant cookie-maker Wally Amos. All discussed their ambitions and achievements with Kimbro, and the author added his own observations about maximizing potential, positive thinking, and building success step by step.
Think and Grow Rich: A Black Choice, co-authored by Hill and Kimbro, was published in 1991 by Ballantine Books. It was the first black self-help book ever to be released by a major publishing house, and it quickly found an audience. Over the next two years, the volume sold some 250,000 copies and went through three printings—it was a best-seller among black nonfiction titles in 1992 and 1993. Kimbro, who had almost lost the mortgage on his house and had been forced to sell both of his cars while writing the book, found himself a much sought after speaker and interview subject. His work was profiled in a PBS television documentary, and he appeared on numerous talk shows and discussion panels. Asked to describe his first book in USA Today, Kimbro called it “a role model for people who never had a role model, adding, “If you want to be successful, you must walk hand in hand with successful people.”
In 1992 Kimbro was named director of the newly created Center for Entrepreneurship at Clark Atlanta University in Georgia. A subdivision of that university’s School of Business and Administration, the Center for Entrepreneurship was designed to encourage young black Americans to start their own companies or small businesses. At the project’s groundbreaking, Kimbro told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “This center exists to deliver a first-class program of professional entrepreneurship and innovation management. Part of the goal is… the development of a wealth-creating class of black Americans.” The center’s programs include graduate-level courses, seminars conducted by visiting businesspeople, and even a summer program for high school students. It has been funded by a million-dollar endowment from the Dow Jones Company, publisher of the Wall Street Journal, and is the first of its kind at a historically black college.
Kimbro’s message throughout his work is that poverty and discrimination need not stifle a truly confident, motivated, and ambitious person. In the Atlanta Journal-Constitution he decried a “false diagnosis that sees racism as the disease and civil rights and public policy as the cure…. The problem with this race-based approach is that it places the remedies of black America’s economic ills outside… black America.” Kimbro feels that black Americans should look out for themselves rather than expecting government reforms to help them. Above all, he concluded, “Black America must change its attitudes about capitalism. Instead of looking at it as an inherently evil system that enslaved us for centuries, African Americans must embrace it as a ladder with which to climb out of poverty and despair.”
Kimbro’s second book, Daily Motivations for African-American Success, provides further inspirational messages for people in all walks of life. Daily Motivations for African-American Success consists of 365 entries, one for each day in the year. Each entry includes a motivational title, a quote from a black source, and a short series of suggestions on self-improvement. The entry concludes with an epigram—almost like a memory verse—to help the reader retain the message at hand.
Stressing such values as self-reliance and determination, Kimbro’s writings and speeches espouse the conservative cause of individual accomplishment free from government assistance. His work transcends politics, however, by offering steps to developing a positive attitude, a concrete plan for success, and a moral backdrop against which to measure achievement. As he put it in Think and Grow Rich, “There are no open doors to the temple of success. Everyone who enters must forge his own way. Grand success waits patiently for anyone who has the fortitude and determination to seize his share of the American dream. But you must remember that it is you who creates your opportunities —not fate, luck, or chance.” He concluded: “In truth, opportunity first takes shape in your mind. It is an expression of how you perceive yourself as well as how you perceive your environment. The achievers, the innovators, and the movers and shakers are those with the courage and the insight to say, ’Yes, I can! There is a way—and I’ll find it!’”
Kimbro aims his inspiring message particularly at young black Americans, who he feels can indeed amass great wealth and fame through old-fashioned capitalist entrepreneurship. “We beat the odds when our country was beating us,” he exhorted in a speech published in the San Jose Mercury News. “We know that success is a marathon and not a sprint. Who are we? We are black, and we are achievers.”
(With Napoleon Hill) Think and Grow Rich: A Black Choice, Ballantine, 1991.
Daily Motivations for African-American Success by Dennis Kimbro, Ph.D., Ballantine, 1993.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, September 27, 1991, p. 1G; October 14,1992, p. 1C; February 7, 1993, p. 7H; February 19, 1993, p. 1G.
Black Enterprise, November 1992, p. 105; January 1994, p. 79.
Chicago Tribune, May 15, 1993, p. 1.
Ebony, November 1991, p. 18.
Essence, April 1992, p. 54.
Newsday, February 1, 1994, p. 44.
San Jose Mercury News, November 24, 1993, p. Extra-2.
USA Today, December 3, 1991, p. 4B; May 10, 1993, p. 11E.
—Anne Janette Johnson
"Kimbro, Dennis 1950—." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (January 22, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/kimbro-dennis-1950
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