Five Generations of Black Entrepreneurship in Publishing, Banking & Education

By Brittany N. Cole

A publishing corporation, one of the first Black-owned banks in the US, and one of four HBCUs in Nashville, TN all draw their roots from one lineage – The Boyd family. R.H. Boyd has a legacy that expands across five generations.

In 1896 Dr. R.H. (Richard Henry) Boyd founded the publishing company and eight years later in 1904, serial entrepreneur Dr. R.H. Boyd founded Citizens Savings Bank & Trust Company. The Boyd family was also influential in bringing Tennessee State University to Nashville, TN.

For over 125 years, R.H. Boyd has been a leader in providing Christian media to the African-American community and beyond. What started as a family-owned company in 1896 has become one of the largest black-owned and operated businesses in the United States. This growth is due in large part to five generations of leadership from the Boyd family, which have steered the business to thrive through times of great difficulty and immense success. Let’s look at how these generations of business leaders have helped shape R.H. Boyd into what it is today.

The Early Years – Rev. Dr. Richard Henry Boyd (1896 – 1921)

R.H. Boyd was founded by Dr. Richard Henry Boyd, who was born enslaved and became a civil rights activist organizing churches and freedmen across Texas, and an entrepreneur who founded the National Baptist Publishing Board, now known as R.H. Boyd, in 1896 in Nashville, Tennessee. In its early years, R.H. Boyd primarily printed Bibles and religious texts for Black churches throughout the South—an effort that led to its current status as one of the most renowned publishers in Christian media today. In 2013 the Nashville Entrepreneur Center honored the legacy of Rev. Dr. Richard Henry Boyd with an induction into the Nashville Entrepreneur’s Hall of Fame.

The Expansion Years – Dr. Henry Allen Boyd & Dr. T.B. Boyd, Jr. (1922-1978)

Dr. Henry Allen Boyd took over after his father passed away, and it was during his tenure that R.H. Boyd began to expand its operations to include more than just printing services—the company began publishing hymnals, books on black history, Christian comic books for children, magazines, Sunday school curricula, and much more! This expansion marked an important turning point for R.H. Boyd as the company grew to serve over 20,000 Sunday schools and 8,000 churches. Dr. T.B. Boyd, Jr. became an apprentice of his uncle and following his death, Dr. T.B. Boyd, Jr. became President/CEO in 1959.  As the leading publisher for Black churches, R.H. Boyd was at the forefront of the national civil rights and social agenda, supporting the National Baptist Convention of America, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Civil Rights Movement. R.H. Boyd Publishing continued to grow and relocated to its current location on Centennial Blvd.

The Elevation Era – Dr. T.B. Boyd III & Dr. LaDonna Boyd (1979 – present)

The Boyd of Directors appointed Dr. T.B. Boyd III President/CEO in 1979, after the untimely passing of his father Dr. T.B. Boyd, Jr, making him the youngest CEO in the company’s 80-year history. Dr. T.B. Boyd III also served as the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Citizens Savings and Trust Company Bank. Under his leadership, new innovations, and ideas brought R.H. Boyd into the 21st-century digital age with the worldwide distribution of eBooks through distributors like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. As the company embraced and leveraged tech, e-commerce helped the organization elevate its offerings with digital content. In 2015 LaDonna Boyd was appointed to serve as COO of the corporation and was named President/CEO in 2017, becoming the fifth-generation and first woman to lead the corporation.  As president/CEO, Dr. LaDonna Boyd is taking R.H. Boyd to new heights, elevating its focus on technology, commercial printing, multimedia storytelling, author resources, and events. 

The R. H. Boyd Publishing Corporation is Nashville’s history and US Black history as one of the oldest continuously operated, family-owned businesses in the country. The entrepreneurial leadership and scale of R.H. Boyd Publishing is recognized in exhibits at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C. and the National Museum of African American Music in Nashville, TN. The Nashville Entrepreneur Center is proud of the legacy of R.H. Boyd Publishing Corporation.

In the words of Dr. LaDonna Boyd, this organization “has lent its voice to positively uplifting the narrative of Black people. There is no greater time than the present to become a storyteller and shape the narrative of this experience… to showcase the beauty and diversity of the Black voice.”

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