Click for audio Black History Lessons from Motown--and Beyond

February is Black History month—a time to remember the rise of a young Michigan black man from assembly line worker to multimillionaire who changed musical tastes and broke racial barriers.

In 1959, Berry Gordy borrowed $800.00 from his family and founded Motown Record Corporation at his home in Detroit.

The marketplace quickly rewarded Gordy’s clever entrepreneurship. Soon, white music lovers began adding to their collections black Motown artists like Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder, and Smokey Robinson.

But when it came time to expand his company internationally, Gordy discovered that not every country shared America’s openness to new ideas and free enterprise. In England, where the major radio stations were owned by the government, songs from Motown artists were banned from the airwaves.

Britons who wanted to hear Gordy’s music had to rely on illegal pirate ships broadcasting Motown tunes from off the coast. Demand for the music grew so quickly that the government stations finally relented and began playing the songs. The "Motown sound" became an international success.

Berry Gordy proved to the world that ideas and American-style freedom, not skin color, are the most important keys to success.

For the Mackinac Center, this is Catherine Martin.