Business in Black and White: American Presidents and Black Entrepreneurs in the Twentieth Century

Business in Black and White: American Presidents and Black Entrepreneurs in the Twentieth Century

Business in Black and White: American Presidents and Black Entrepreneurs in the Twentieth Century

Business in Black and White: American Presidents and Black Entrepreneurs in the Twentieth Century

Synopsis

Business in Black and White provides a panoramic discussion of various initiatives that American presidents have supported to promote black business development in the United States. Many assume that U.S. government interest in promoting black entrepreneurship began with Richard Nixon's establishment of the Office of Minority Business Enterprise (OMBE) in 1969. Drawn from a variety of sources, Robert E. Weems, Jr.'s comprehensive work extends the chronology back to the Coolidge Administration with a compelling discussion of the Commerce Departmen's "Division of Negro Affairs."

Weems deftly illustrates how every administration since Coolidge has addressed the subject of black business development, from campaign promises to initiatives to downright roadblocks. Although the governmen's influence on black business dwindled during the Eisenhower Administration, Weems points out that the subject was reinvigorated during the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations and, in fact, during the early-to-mid 1960s, when "civil rights" included the right to own and operate commercial enterprises. After Nixon's resignation, support for black business development remained intact, though it met resistance and continues to do so even today. As a historical text with contemporary significance, Business in Black and White is an original contribution to the realms of African American history, the American presidency, and American business history.

Excerpt

I know that many advances have been made in the opening of new
avenues and new levels of employment for Negroes. Well and Good.
But this is only one side of economic democracy. While we have
fought hard for advancement as Employees, we are not fulfilling
our mission, our place in the sun, as Employers…. Full equality
to me includes the right to Hire; not just to be Hired: the power to
own the company, not just work for the company. If we can make
appreciable gains in this struggle, we will increase the self-respect
and the self-dignity of the Negro people a hundred-fold.

This book surveys historic initiatives supported by American presidents to help African Americans’ quest to participate fully in the American economy. It has been widely assumed that before President Richard Nixon came to office in 1969 seeking to implement his “black capitalism” policy initiative, the U.S. government had demonstrated little or no interest in the affairs of African American businesspeople, a belief that has been reinforced by much of the scholarship related to black business enterprise.

It is indeed true that for most of American history, governmental bodies (local, state, and national), have not supported black business development. It is equally true that this has retarded the development of successful African American commercial enterprises. As Juliet E. K. Walker commented, “In America, government support, both direct and indirect, is critically important for business success. Simply put, in America, white businesses and government have been inextricably linked since the colonial era.” Expanding on the pioneering work of Merah S. Stuart, John Sibley Butler talked about how governmental support of racial discrimi-

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