How the World’s Richest Black Man Lost It All

It would take 138 Oprahs to amass Mansa Musa’s wealth. Yes, you read that right! Musa is considered the richest person in all of history with an estimated net worth of $400 Billion, and the crazy thing is few folks have ever heard of him.

So, who was Mansa Musa?

During the early 14th century, Musa served as emperor of the powerful Mali Empire located in West Africa. The source of Musa’s wealth stemmed from the vast natural resources of the Mali land. At this time, the Mali Empire was the largest producer of salt and gold, both of which were highly sought after by traders.

Musa was inconceivably rich and not afraid to flaunt it. In 1324, he set out on his infamous 4,000 mile pilgrimage to Mecca where he actually made it rain gold. Musa did not make the trek alone and his entourage consisted of 60,000 ornately dressed men carrying 4 lbs of gold a piece as well as 80 camels each bearing 300 lbs of gold. Along the route, Musa and his men passed out so much gold to the poor that it decreased its value, causing a Great Depression.

Musa’s extravagant trip put him on the map — literally. Neighboring nations were so impressed by his wealth and generosity that cartographers drew Musa on the Catalan Atlas, which became one of the most important world maps of Medieval Europe. Musa was also well-respected for his devout religious practices and insisted his architects build a new mosque every Friday at each stop along their journey.

It is a shame that Mansa Musa’s inspiring story is not more widespread. This is the cloth we are cut from – we are kings and queens. This sentiment is echoed by the words of Kendrick Lamar, “I got royalty…inside my D.N.A.”

Whether we talk about Mansa Musa, The Moors, Black Wall Street, or countless other examples, Black wealth is no anomaly. We have a rich history of Black folks becoming millionaires and even billionaires. Most importantly, being aware of these incredible stories can help inspire us to continue striving for greatness in our own lives and remind us of the collective achievements of our community.

If you are interested in learning about other lesser-known Black billionaires, check out these articles on Reginald Lewis and Robert Smith.