Abstract: The 1961 National Conference on Black Business: The Negro Market, the Cold War, and the Future of Black Business in America

Robert E. Weems, Jr.


From November 30 to December 2, 1961,the U.S. Commerce Department sponsored a three-day conference with the theme "Problems and Opportunities Confronting Negroes in the Field of Business." This meeting focused upon the role of black business in a changing social, political, and economic environment (both nationally and internationally). This paper demonstrates that the anticipated dismantling of American apartheid, while perceived as a positive social development, had negative implications for black-owned businesses in the United States. In fact, this 1961 Commerce Department conference, besidesfeaturing several pessimistic discussions related to the future of black businesses in a desegregated society, actively urged African American businesses to seek new clients among the newly independent nations on the African continent. Black businesspeople were told that such a strategy, besides sustaining their profitability, would enable them to play an important role in the international battle against communism.

BEH On-Line Paper