Rose Morgan (1912-2008)

Company: Rose Meta House of Beauty
Started: 1942
Size: $300,000 in 1955 gross income; estimates as high as $3 million

As owner of the largest and most visible African American beauty salons in the U.S. in the 1950s and 1960s, Rose Morgan became a symbol of achievement in the civil rights era. The 1955 opening of her second and grandest salon – Rose Meta House of Beauty – in Harlem was heralded in the black and mainstream press alike. The event drew a crowd of more than 10,000 people, including New York City elites such as Susan Wagner, the wife of Mayor Robert F. Wagner, Jr. Morgan’s marriage to boxing champion Joe Louis in 1955 only furthered her celebrity status, though it lasted only a few years. Morgan worked to dispel white standards of beauty and encourage African American women to celebrate their features. Toward that end, in the 1960s, she wrote a column for the New Pittsburgh Courier called “The Beautiful Truth: Rose Morgan’s Beauty Tips.” During her years in business, she trained 3000 employees, launched her own products (including an unsuccessful cologne bearing Joe Louis’s name), and in 1965 was one of the founders of the African-American owned Freedom National Bank in New York. Morgan also fought for better wages and conditions for beauticians and was the first black beauty shop owner to become a member of the New York State Wage Board. She retired in the 1970s. Sales figures for her business vary, with some estimates reaching as high as $3 million during its heyday.

References:

  • Glenda M. Alvin, “Rose Morgan,” Library and Information Science Research Papers, Tennessee State University, 2007.
  • Debra Michals, “The Meaning of Ownership: Black Women Entrepreneurs/Beauty Shop Owners, 1945-1980 (unpublished paper, New York University, 1993).
  • Tiffany M. Gill, “‘I Had My Own Business,” in Scranton, Beauty, 169-194.
  • Tiffany M. Gill, Beauty Shop Politics: African American Women’s Activism in the Beauty Industry (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2010), 74-75.
  • “Business Makers: Rose Morgan” History Makers, Interview, 28 January 2002 (http://www.thehistorymakers.com/biography/rose-morgan-39).
  • “Rose Morgan (1912-) Beauty Shop Owner, Cosmetics Entrepreneur,” in Jessie Carney Smith, Millicent Lownes Jackson and Linda T. Wyn, Encyclopedia of African American Business, Vol. 1, (Westport: Greenwood Press, 2006), 542-544.
  • Rachel Kranz, African American Business Leaders, and Entrepreneurs (New York: Facts on File Books), 199-201.
  • Carol Krisman, Encyclopedia of American Women in Business From Colonial Times to the Present (Westport: Greenwood Press, 2005), 392-394.
  • Joanna Rubiner, “Morgan, Rose Meta 1912(-?)” in Contemporary Black Biography (http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-2871300053.html).
  • “Rose Morgan: Obituary,” Chicago Sun Times, 19 December 2008 (http://legacy.suntimes.com/obituaries/chicagosuntimes/obituary.aspx?n=rose-morgan&pid=121562551#fbLoggedOut).