Born in 1818, Douglass was a former slave who gained freedom to become one of the most important figures in the anti-slavery movement and one of the most prominent African American leaders of the 19th century. Later in his life, he bought a 15 acre patch of land in Washington D.C., which was unheard of for a black man at the time.
Jobs struggled during his school years, eventually dropping out of college. He obviously went on to be co-founder of Apple Computers, and is largely credited with leading the personal computer revolution. His net wealth in 2010 was estimated to be $8.2 billion.
Twain was so poor growing up in rural Canada, her parents would have her sing in bars on weeknights to bring in money for the family. She's also talked about how she and her sister were almost always hungry. Today, Twain is one of the world's best-selling artists of all time, having sold over 75 million albums worldwide. She is also the best selling female artist in the history of country music, with a net worth of around $350 million.
The creator of the "Harry Potter" series has openly discussed how she struggled as a single mother living on benefits for years. Her first drafts were rejected by 12 publishers. Now, Rowling's series is the bestselling book series of all time, with over 400 million copies sold in over 200 countries. The 7th Harry Potter book is the fastest selling publication of all time, and Rowling has made history as the first billionaire author.
Born in 1953 to poor Jewish parents in Brooklyn, New York, Schultz was the first member of his family to go to college. Starting as a sales clerk at Xerox, he eventually became CEO of Starbucks and is largely credited with its global domination, leaving him a net worth of $1.6 billion by 2013.
Born in 1835 in a one roomed weavers cottage in Dunfermline, Scotland, Carnegie's family immigrated to America when he was 13 because of their extreme poverty. No one could have predicted how he would go on to dominate the US steel industry, amassing a personal fortune. By his death, he had given away $4.8 billion.
Growing up in poverty in Sao Paulo, Pele could not afford a proper football and instead would practice with a rolled-up ball of newspaper. He was only 15 when he signed with Santos FC. He went on to become the greatest soccer player of the century, winning three World Cups with Brazil, and scoring 1281 goals in 1363 games. Pele has become an international ambassador since retiring from the sport.
Branson was an academic failure in school, dropping out early with no degrees. He eventually started his own record shop with a small loan, long before he would go on to become one of the most prominent and successful businessmen in the UK and the world.
Gardner was a homeless man raising a son who eventually got a lucky break as a trainee stockbroker. He set up his brokerage firm, later selling it in a multi-million dollar deal. The film "The Pursuit of Happyness" is based on his life story.
At the age of 48, Susan Boyle led a quiet life looking after her mother and cat, living unmarried and singing at her local parish. After getting a break on "Britain’s Got Talent," she became a global sensation, becoming one of the fastest selling debut artists of all time. She is currently worth around $33 million.
Oprah was born to extreme poverty in rural Mississippi and brought up in inner-city Milwaukee. Despite this, she is the richest African-American of the past century, with a net worth of 3 billion dollars. Some consider her to be the most influential woman in the world.
Haile was one of ten children born in rural Ethiopia, forced to run 12 miles every day to get to school and back. He would later become one of most successful athletes in the world, with two Olympic golds in the 10,000m.
Soros was born in Budapest, Hungary, surviving the Nazi occupation and the siege of Budapest. When he immigrated to London, he became a struggling student, writing to every merchant bank in London asking for a job. This was his journey to becoming one of most successful and wealthy investors in the world, with a net worth of over $23 billion as of 2013.
Before he was the Governator an action movie star, Arnold Schwarzenegger was a poor immigrant from Austria. He begged and borrowed to get enough money to start his first business, called Pumping Bricks. This led to his body building career.
Beyonce's hubby has an empire all his own. The rapper-turned-entrepreneur began life in the Marcy Housing Project in Brooklyn, growing up with crime and trouble. Today, he's one of the richest men in the world. Also, being married to Beyonce doesn't hurt, either.
Halle Berry was raised by a single mother in Cleveland, Ohio, even spending time in a homeless shelter while she tried to pursue her acting dreams in New York. As of 2014, she's still the only black woman to have won an Oscar for a leading role.
John Paul DeJoria
Born to Italian and Greek immigrant parents, this billionaire was forced to sell newspapers before the age of 9 so his family had food to eat. He also lived in a foster home, was a part of a street gang and jumped through a number of odd jobs. With a measly start-up loan of $700, he began what is now known the world over as the Paul Mitchell line of hair products. He also now owns 70% of The Patron Spirits Company, the world’s most luxurious tequila brand. His net worth is over 2 billion dollars.
The world's most famous fashion designer used to sell ties to his classmates to earn some cash. Flash forward to today, when his empire is worth more than 7 billion dollars.
Henry Ford was a small-town farm boy who taught himself to repair watches. His vast Ford empire was huge when he was alive and still his today: Forbes estimated that his 2008 net worth was around $188.1 billion!
Kamprad lived on a small farm growing up, eventually taking money from his father and creating a mail-order business that eventually became IKEA. His value today is an incredible $6 billion.
Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/rags-to-riches-stories-2011-11?op=1#ixzz3Sn0SmseV
Laliberté began his circus career on the streets: playing accordion, walking on stilts and eating fire. He gambled by bringing a successful troupe from Quebec to the Los Angeles Arts Festival in 1987, not even able to afford a return fare for them. The bet paid off, and the circus group was eventually brought to Las Vegas. They later achieved international fame for their performances. Today, Laliberté is the CEO of Cirque, a professional poker player and space tourist, with a total worth of $2.5 billion.