A Historiography of African American Business

Shennette Garrett-Scott

While scholars are certainly aware that African American businesses existed, few are aware of the established and growing body of scholarship focused on this important field of business history. Since the late 1890s, scholars have interrogated the complex intersections of race and business. African American business historiography has taken a circuitous route; this essay attempts to periodize that historiography. It identifies five major periods and the major themes and points of contention within and between each period: Black Self-Determination, 1890s-1915; Golden Age of the Black Economic Nationalism, 1915-1935; Progressive Critique of Black Business, 1935-1960s; Black Political Economy, 1970-1980s; and Revisionist Period, 1990s to Present. The essay considers why African American business has been slower to materialize in relation to other areas of scholarship outside the field of business history—and within it. Finally, it offers conjectures about the future of the historiography of African American business.

BEH On-Line Paper