Tuesday, January 12, 2016
Oldest Black Owned Travel Agency in the United States
The honor of being the oldest, continuously operating, African American owned travel agency goes to Rodgers Travel Bureau, located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Rodgers Travel Bureau opened their doors in 1949. The company was started by Harold Rodgers, an African American medical student who was working as a porter for TWA at Philadelphia International Airport to help pay for medical school. He knew the business well, and when he opened his agency, he was the only black-owned travel agency in the U.S.
Business was booming, largely due to Rodgers' loyal black customer base. Rodgers provided a valuable service for black customers at a time when the "whites only" segregation rules made it difficult to impossible for blacks to travel. Even after desegregation, his customers remained loyal. By the late 1960’s, the company was able to open a Rodgers Travel location in Washington, D.C. that targeted affluent African Americans and was a great location to black organizations who had headquarters in D.C.
Changes -- all good
In 1954, William Griffin purchased the business from Harold Rodgers and soon added partner Fred Russell to manage the business. By the 1970’s, Russell’s daughters Norma Pratt and Joanne Ussery joined the management team. When their father passed away in 1980, his two daughters took over. It was now company president Norma Pratt who took the lead to secure the company for further growth. She took advantage of SBA’s 8(a) business development program to enter into the federal government marketplace. In 1991, she bid on and received Rodgers’ first federal government contract - a $10 million per year contract servicing Scott AFB.
The company is pleased that they have not only secured a place in history but also secured the future of the company.
For more details about Rodgers Travel Bureau, visit www.rodgerstravel.com
Also, watch the YouTube video below about the company's history: