Making Space: Merging Theory and Practice in Adult Education

By Vanessa Sheared; Peggy A. Sissel et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 6

The African-American Market Woman: Her Past, Our Future

Cheryl A. Smith

Black women are a prism through which the searing rays of race, class and sex are first focused and, then refracted. The creative among us transform these rays into a spectrum of brilliant color, a rainbow which illuminates the experience of all mankind.

—Margaret B. Wilkerson in Hine (1998)


INTRODUCTION

As an entrepreneur and adult/entrepreneurship educator, I am continuously impressed with Black women entrepreneurs’ strength and resiliency. I have seen that in spite of the double yoke of racism and sexism, they have made significant contributions to the American economy. Yet, in spite of their contributions, very little is known in adult education literature about their entrepreneurial involvements, due to the fact that we live in not only a racist, but also a sexist society. It is through the lens of racism, sexism, power, and control that the story of the African-American market woman is told.

The term “market woman” often evokes images of women selling produce in outdoor markets. A different interpretation can serve to illuminate the marketing and business skills of Black women entrepreneurs that are rooted in the long-standing entrepreneurial traditions of the powerful market women of ancient Africa. The reality is that women of African descent have a long history of entrepreneurial activities, skills, and successes, beginning with those traditions (Herskovits 1941; Walker 1993). I believe that it is this heritage that has helped African Americans survive; and more importantly, it helped African-American women endure during the Colonial and Antebellum eras of American history—a

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