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The Trucking Legacy of America’s First Black Business Continues

Kim Diggs

February 22, 2024

Pierre Laguerre, Myles McGregor, Casey Cooper, Amari Ruff. These are just a few names of Black trucking business owners who built successful companies that have left lasting legacies within the industry. Within publications, podcasts and social platforms focused on Black business, transportation has become a hot topic the past few years. This is largely thanks to owner-operators and experts like Alix Burton, Rahmel Wattley and Clarissa Rankin creating viral content on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram and Facebook around their successes, the successes of others, and the do’s and don’ts of running a trucking business. 

A historic legacy in trucking 

All of these entrepreneurs have something major in common – not only are they building generational wealth and a legacy for their families; they are continuing the legacy of what is recognized by the U.S. Department of Commerce as the oldest Black-owned business in the country —  E.E. Ward Moving and Storage. 

Though they have been operating as a moving company for households and businesses for more than 100 years, the early days looked quite a bit different.  

The business was started in the 1840s by John T. Ward, an Underground Railroad conductor. He initially formed the business to help people, presumably, in Kentucky or Virginia escape slavery through several networks and safehouses within an 18-mile stretch in and surrounding Columbus, Ohio a free state.  

At the time, John T. Ward used the transport of feed and other supplies in his freight carriages as a cover for transporting enslaved people to freedom.  

Once the Civil War began, the company received government contracts to transport supplies, munitions and equipment for the U.S. Army. John T. Ward used that money to later form Ward Transfer Line in 1881 with his son, William, a, then, supervisor at a storage company. The name would change two more times before becoming E.E. Ward Moving and Storage in 1899, named after John T. Ward’s grandson, Edgar Earl.  

In 1910, the company traded in the horse-drawn freight carriages for the semi-trucks of the day as they’d transition from moving household items to equipment for local businesses and factories.  

Over time, this family-owned and operated business expanded to offer commercial, employee and household relocation as well as warehousing and customized logistics.  

Through the years, the company remained family owned until 2001 when Brian Brooks, Eldon Ward’s godson, purchased the business to ensure it stayed in operation.  

E.E. Ward Moving and Storage is still in operation to this day. The company partnered with North American Van Lines to expand their capacity as they opened a branch in Charlotte, North Carolina in 2018 and Raleigh in 2021. 

Though not many transportation companies can say they’ve been around since the 1840s, thousands of legacies are still being formed as many trucking companies are run as family businesses. 

To learn more about the history of E.E. Ward Moving and Storage, click here.  

The impact of Black-owned business 

According to the U.S. Census, in 2022 there were 140,918 Black-owned businesses, which employed 1.3 million people. Of those, 9,581 businesses were in transportation and warehousing, making it the fifth most populous industry for Black business.  

Throughout the past 10 years, there has been a relatively slow and steady increase in Black- owned trucking companies. According to Zippia, Black-owned trucking companies currently make up about 12.06 percent of the racial makeup of the industry. According to one successful business owner, it will take more than physical know how to increase these numbers over time.   

 Pierre Laguerre, owner of Fleeting, a trucking and fleet management business, spoke with Shoppe Black about the keys to success and he said this: “The keys for sure are grit and determination. Nothing worth having is going to come easy. … But how can there be so many opportunities in trucking? Meanwhile, there are men and women in certain communities who have never been exposed to these opportunities. This is exactly why Pierre’s academy exists today.” 

To hear more about Pierre’s story and business, click here.