02/27/2012 11:24 am ET Updated Apr 28, 2012

NYSE Recognizes African-American Pioneers (VIDEO)

In honor of Black History Month, Ken Polcari, managing director at ICAP Equities, took to the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) to highlight achievements made there by black Americans, including Joseph L. Searles III and brokerage firm Daniels & Bell.

On February 12, 1970, Searles became the first black floor member and floor broker in the New York Stock Exchange -- a first in the NYSE's 178-year history. At the time of his appointment, Searles was a partner in the firm of Neuberger, Loeb and Company, and had done a stint as a professional football player with the New York Giants.

"It's a personal challenge to me as a black man to become part of the economic mainstream of this country," Searles said in an interview, according to Bloomberg News. "I don't believe I'll become a token black. I think there will be more black members at the exchange. Hopefully, my presence will increase the credibility of the financial community, as far as blacks are concerned."

More African-American did go on to become members of the NYSE, though Searles' career in finance was short-lived. He held his membership position in the NYSE for the remainder of 1970 and then went on to obtain a law degree from Georgetown University.

The following year, brokerage firm Daniels & Bell became the first black-owned firm on the NYSE. The firm was founded by 30-year-old Travers J. Bell Jr. and Willie L. Daniels, age 33, African-American men had worked in financial services for about ten years.

Daniels & Bell successfully underwrote securities of minority owned business and municipal bonds for two-decades, but ran into trouble following Bell's death in 1988 and closed up shop in 1994.