Founded by John T. Ward and his son William S. Ward, E.E. Ward Moving & Storage Co. is reportedly the oldest African-American-owned business in the United States.
John T. Ward was born in Virginia and came to Ohio in 1828. He eventually settled in the Reynoldsburg area, and became a conductor on the Underground Railroad at 22, aiding slaves in their escape from the South to the North through Central Ohio beginning in 1842.
The Wards founded what would eventually be known as E. E. Ward in 1881, 140 years ago.
Brian said Columbus had a big impact in where John T. Ward decided to start a business, in that this is where he decide to plant his roots.
“He felt a special calling because he had been able to help others [as] a part of the overall larger operation of the Underground Railroad and help people escape to freedom in the north,” he said.
He said there’s stories of inspiration of what people overcome all of the time, and we learn new ones every day, especially ones coming out of the African American community – from John T. Ward, who took the risk and became a counterpart in what is called one of the greatest freedom movements in history, to his great-grandson Eldon Ward, who became the first Black chairman of the Columbus Foundation, was on the board of the United Way and was heavily involved in the overall advancement of the Black community in Central Ohio.
The legacy and history is something the Brooks what to continue to honor.
“We know that what we’re doing today it’s going to matter in the next 100 years,” said Dominique. “We’re sharing the history, the legacy, keeping the culture alive, because I believe that’s one of the most vital components of our business.”
“Our goal is to be caretakers of that, to see it into the next 100 years, and hopefully inspire other minorities in our community to embark on entrepreneurship, and to start, because there’s power in the start,” she said.