New Directions in African American Business History

Brandon K. Winford and Shennette Garrett-Scott, Conveners

The field of African American business history has moved forward in significant ways over the last thirty years with groundbreaking scholarship that has stood the test of time. In particular, the black experience in business happened against the backdrop of Jim Crow segregation and in the face of tighter restrictions being placed on the citizenship rights of black people at the turn of the twentieth century. Moreover, the success and survival of these institutions were often threatened by social, political, and economic barriers, which confronted them upon their emancipation. This workshop proposes to bring together scholars of African American Business History for two sessions (one morning, one afternoon) to workshop essays/book chapters for consideration in an edited volume on the topic "New Directions in African American Business History." These essays will cover a range of topics from the mid-19th to the 21st centuries. In doing so, the workshop will foster collaboration while making connections across and within disciplines and methodologies, as well as between faculty engaged in studies of race, business, and capitalism. In other words, we will bring closely related themes of identity, power, class, and gender to bear in understanding not only African Americans’ contributions to U.S. economic, political, and social history but also how ideas about race shape and have been shaped by notions of success, opportunity, and risk in U.S. society and culture over time. Despite the realities of economic discrimination, blacks contributed significantly to the entrepreneurial spirit that has characterized American society, while at the same time improving the overall condition of African Americans. 

Papers will be distributed prior to the workshop (see links below). Workshop attendees are invited to join the discussion with the authors about their works in progress. 

Place: Room Charlotte A, Charlotte Marriott City Center Hotel
Date: Thursday, March 12, 2020
Time: 8:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.

The Twitter hashtag for this workshop will be #BHC20NewDirections

Workshop Agenda

Scribe: Joshua Strayhorn, Duke University

8:30 - 8:45 a.m. Welcome

Discussions of Papers

8:45 - 9:45 “‘Deference as Property’: The Economic Lives of Black Barbers in Nineteenth-Century Baltimore” [Link to paper]
Marcus Allen, North Carolina A&T State University

9:45 - 10:00 Break

10:00 - 11:00 “Modest Dreams and Grand Ambitions: Reconsidering Philadelphia’s Black Catering Trade at the Turn of the Twentieth Century” [Link to paper]
Danya Pilgrim, Temple University

11:00 - 11:15 Break

11:15 a.m. - 12:15 p.m. “‘All the Other Devils this Side of Hades’: Black Banks and the Mississippi Banking Law of 1914” [Link to paper]
Shennette Garrett-Scott, University of Mississippi (@EbonRebel)

12:15 - 1:00 Lunch, Provided courtesy of the Department of History, University of Tennessee, Knoxville

1:00 - 2:00 “Black Power in the Boardroom: Corporate America, the Sullivan Principles, and the Anti-Apartheid Struggle” [Link to paper]
Jessica Levy, University of Virginia (@jessicaannlevy)

2:00 - 2:15 Break

2:15 - 3:15 “‘Large Enough to Serve You, Small Enough to Know You’: The Mechanics and Farmers Bank in Durham, North Carolina, and the Power of Black Finance in the New South” [Link to paper]
Brandon K. Winford, University of Tennessee at Knoxville (@Winhistory24)

3:15 - 4:00 Wrap-Up and Discussion of Next Steps

We regret that some of our other participants were not able to join us, but we do want to acknowledge their work, which will continue to be part of our ongoing project.

Anton House, Delaware State University, “For Dollar and Destiny: The Grand Fountain United Order of True Reformers and the Economic Development of Black America”

Mary Potorti, Emerson College, “Boycott Boyette: The Black Panther Party’s Assault on Black Capitalism”