“The Right Man”: James A. Jackson and the Origins of U.S. Government Interest in Black Business

Despite the widely held notion that U.S. government assistance to African American entrepreneurs commenced in the late 1960s, the evidence indicates that government interest in promoting black business actually began in the 1920s. Beginning with the appointment of James A. Jackson in November 1927, the U.S. Commerce Department’s agenda, until the mid-1950s, included “Negro Affairs.” Jackson’s actions did not generate the direct financial assistance to black entrepreneurs associated with such later government initiatives as Richard Nixon’s “Black Capitalism.” Nevertheless, Jackson’s pioneering efforts, to provide black businesspeople with useful information, helped to positively reshape contemporary African American entrepreneurs’ beliefs about the role of government in their lives.