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Chapter Nineteen. African American Entrepreneurship in Slavery and Freedom

Anne R. Hornsby


Subject Business and Management » Entrepreneurship
Race and Ethnicity Studies » African American Studies

Key-Topics freedom, slavery

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631230663.2004.00021.x


Extract

African American participation in American business and commerce began in the colonial period with a few free black-owned enterprises in major cities of the North and black artisans and craftsmen in the South. Paul Cuffe in Massachusetts was a shipbuilder and trader; James Forten of Pennsylvania became a wealthy shipbuilder in Philadelphia; and Frank McWorter (“Free Frank”) manufactured saltpeter on the Kentucky frontier and operated several enterprises in Chicago. Despite the fact that black businesses-such as barber shops, and other service institutions like banks and insurance companies-expanded in the post-emancipation era, the number and type of African-American-owned businesses remained small until recent times. Furthermore, individual proprietorships, the type of business in which blacks were principally engaged, had a short life-span ( Hine, Hine, and Harrold 2000 ; Higgs 1976 ; Hornsby 1980 ; Walker 1983 ). Most of the early scholarly studies of black entrepreneurship deplored the paucity of such enterprises and sought to understand the factors behind this. W. E. B. Du Bois published one of the first, major scholarly studies in 1899. In The Negro in Business , he made distinctions among black businesses along caste and class lines. He claimed that black bondspersons who had been house servants, field hands, or semi-skilled workers, became barbers, gardeners, and builders, ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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