First Black-Owned Textile Mill

Warren C. Coleman Mill in Concord, North Carolina has finally received national recognition this year by being placed on the National Register of Historic Places. According to the Charlotte Observer, the Warren C. Coleman Mill is the first African-American owned and operated textile mill. It was built as part of a noble experiment. It harbored a dream that a textile mill could be built and operated by persons of color.

The Mill’s founder, Warren C. Coleman, was a former enslaved African. He began his business career in 1871 collecting rags, bones, and junk. Soon he started a combination barbershop and candy store in Concord. After Coleman opened his store, he took business classes at Howard University, later branched out into real estate and built more than 100 rental homes. With his wealth in hand, Coleman persuaded other African-Americans to invest in the mill.

 It was a game-changer for the African-American community because they had no place to be gainfully employed, except in homes of some (White) people. They were not used to paying Blacks. They were their former slaves, so this (the mill) represented that dream for Blacks to be able to purchase land, a business and be self-sustaining.

Coleman built the mill with hard wood floors, bricks made on site and floor to ceiling hard pine wood beams that are still sturdy today. At its height, the mill employed just over 300 African-Americans to make yarn. He wanted the mill to be operated by African-Americans, but he had to bring in a few Whites because insurance companies would not sell policies to Black-owned businesses