Black Business Enterprise: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives

Black Business Enterprise: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives

Black Business Enterprise: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives

Black Business Enterprise: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives

Excerpt

The struggle of African people to liberate themselves has been characterized by the recurrence of certain themes—regardless of where their struggle has taken place. This has certainly been the case in the United States. It is as if the laws of oppression dictate a periodic swing back to philosophies and methods of some past era, in an attempt to make some sense of the current scheme of things. The recent rhetoric surrounding "Black power," for example, is quite similar to concepts espoused much earlier by W. E. B. DuBois, Booker T. Washington, Marcus Garvey, and others. Both the 1900 period and the recent 1960 movement recall the I850s when the ideologies of racial solidarity, self-help, and Black nationalism were espoused as viable means to Black freedom.

But there has been another closely related and very significant consistency throughout the history of Black people in this country. I am speaking of fluctuations in emphasis with respect to the most beneficial relationship between Black folk and whites in America. Integration or separation? This philosophical tension between integrationists and separatists lies at the root of ideological differences in all spheres in which Black people have been and are engaged—cultural, economic, and political. As Harold Cruse has noted, "the present-day conflict within the Negro ethnic group, between integrationist and separatist tendencies, has its origins in the historical arguments between personalities such as Frederick Douglass and Martin R. Delany."

The economic and business sphere, the topic of this volume, offers an illuminating example of this ideological conflict. Ever since Africans were first enslaved here, the question whether Blacks would become a part of the national economy or be relegated to a separate Black economy has been posed repeatedly. The answer, to my mind, is no more obvious today than it might have been a century or more ago. But the persistence of the question strongly suggests that a knowledge and appreciation of the past is a necessary though not a sufficient key to understanding the complexities of the present. Only when both past and present are fully utilized can we expect to plan effectively for our future.

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