Parks Sausage Company: A Higher Standard

Henry G. Parks, Jr. saw to it that the lawn outside his Parks Sausage Company plant was always perfectly manicured. He introduced “sell-by” dates on packages of his signature breakfasts sausages so consumers would know they were fresh. And he invited federal inspectors into his plant at a time when only state inspections were required. As a pioneering Black businessman competing in an overwhelmingly white world of food manufacturing and retailing, Parks knew he would be under extra scrutiny.

So he built a model manufacturing business.

Established by Parks in 1951, the Baltimore-based meat processing company upheld rigorous cleanliness, safety, and employment standards. Parks recruited and trained both Black and white employees, and saw to it that front office and plant workforces were integrated at a time when Black workers were usually relegated to jobs on the factory floor. He fostered a culture of dignity, addressing every employee with “Miss,” “Mrs.,” or “Mr.”

Parks’ commitment paid off. By the 1970s, Parks Sausage had 300 employees. The company reached $14 million in sales and began issuing stock. Today, it is recognized as the first publicly-traded Black-owned business in America.

I think I have proved that black businessman not only can be successful, but that they can be successful on the same terms as anybody else. Henry Parks, in a 1971 interview with Baltimore Sun

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