How We Got Over: The Moral Teachings of The African–American Church on Business Ethics

Abstract: An analysis of the business ethics of the African-American church during and after Reconstruction reveals that it is a conflicted ethic, oscillating between two poles. The first is the sacralization of the business ethic of Booker T. Washington, in which self-help endeavors which valorize American capitalism but are preferentially oriented to the African-American community are advanced as the best and only options for economic uplift. The second is the “Blackwater” tradition, which rejects any racial discrimination and insists upon social justice. The inability of the Washingtonian business ethic to address the needs of the Black underclass are explored. A new business ethic is called for, which would be committed to meeting the basic needs of the most disadvantaged members of American society and those of the “international poor.”