Re-discovering Charles Clinton Spaulding’s “The Administration of Big Business”: Insight into early 20th century African-American management thought

Purpose The purpose of this paper is to reveal the contributions made by Charles Clinton Spaulding, a prominent black business leader in the USA in the early 1900s. This paper highlights the management philosophies and practical work of Spaulding, an individual who considerably influenced African-American management thought and practice, and played an important role in Corporate America from the turn of the twentieth century onward. Design/methodology/approach The research was conducted by reviewing and synthesizing a number of writings including published works by Spaulding himself, as well as articles about Spaulding from sources such as history journals, newspapers and other resources. Findings Spaulding’s contributions were significant, from his insight regarding the fundamental necessities for the effective management of a business, to his management style and implementation of practices which reflected his recognition of the importance of transformational leadership, employee development, diversity, corporate social responsibility and a strong positive culture for the successful management of an enterprise. Thus, this paper concludes that the title of “Father of African-American Management” is a fitting tribute to this business pioneer who overcame the odds to become the most successful black business executive in the early twentieth century. Originality/value The contributions made by minorities, including African-Americans, to management thought and practice have not been adequately covered in the literature. This paper begins to fill a noticeable void by drawing from infrequently acquired sources such as Spaulding’s article “The Administration of Big Business” and highlighting his contributions to the African-American community and the business community at large.