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African-Americans thrive in busy world of business


Black Business Month

Black businesses’ importance to the economy is paramount. As small businesses make up the majority of companies in the USA. August signals the end of summer, but it also identifies as Black Business Month. Black Business Month was created in 2004 after engineering entrepreneur Frederick E. Jordan and John William Templeton, the latter the president and executive editor of the scholarly publishing company eAccess Corp, partnered to start the annual celebration to drive consumers to shop with Black business to support the Black community.

Black entrepreneurship traces back to the late 1700s when northern slaves were freed and pursued their trades of interest, which led to an influx of barbershops, tobacco shops, and tailor shops opening across America. The early 1900s is also known as the golden age of Black business as Black people lived together and supported one another during segregation. In 1915, the National Negro Business League, was created by Booker T. Washington to provide more support for Black entrepreneurs across the country.

As time passed, the league grew to have over 600 chapters nationwide and supported 10,000 small Black businesses by 1920. Namely, the likes of prominent female entrepreneur Madame CJ Walker, the creator of the first successful hair straightening process. Her success prompted many female entrepreneurs nationwide to garner recognition for their businesses and creations and to further the Black experience and wealth.

This boom led to many wealthy and prospering Black communities like Black Wall Street in Tulsa, OK. Greenwood was the model of the potential the Black community had during those times as they displayed the wealth many Black communities of today’s time dream of. But the good times didn’t last long. Racism ran rampant and was overt, leading to one of the most historical criminal events in U.S. history, the Tulsa Massacre in 1921.

“On May 31, 1921, I went to bed in my family’s home in Greenwood,” Viola Fletcher, a Tulsa resident, recounted as she talked about life before the Tulsa Massacre during her interview with “The neighborhood I fell asleep in that night was rich, not just in terms of wealth, but in culture…and heritage. My family had a beautiful home. We had great neighbors. I had friends to play with. I felt safe. I had everything a child could need. I had a bright future.”

Fletcher continues by detailing what she witnessed during and after the massacre. “I still see Black men being shot, Black bodies lying in the street. I still smell smoke and see fire. I still see Black businesses being burned. I still hear airplanes flying overhead. I hear the screams.”

Tulsa Massacre is known as not only a crucial racist act but the beginning of the attack on Black wealth and Black communities. The Black community “ Greenwood,” was a flourishing and productive model for other Black communities to follow and was burned down and destroyed as a White tyrannical mob looted the city after a group of Black men stopped a lynching of another Black man after being falsely accused of sexually assaulting a White woman.

Things didn’t let up from there as the Great Depression in the 1930s  happened, which closed many Black businesses and plummeted Black communities into poverty. As unskilled and entry-level jobs started becoming scarce due to the closing of companies and factories, many Black Americans found themselves unemployed. In places like Atlanta, a prominent Black state, there was nearly 70 percent of the Black population unemployed, triple the rate of the White population. Sharecroppers in the South were also affected, and this led to the Great Migration of 1.75 million Black Americans moving from the rural South to the urban North.

Years after the Great Migration to the North and Midwest, there was another boom in Black business as World War II was starting and Black leaders secured defense contracts, which was surprising to the masses as Black businesses were deemed too small to handle the workload needed by manufacturers. While the growth in Black business was happening, it was still happening during the segregation and civil rights era, which provided many challenges for Black people, like gaining capital, supplies, safety, support of the black dollar, and places that allowed Black business.  Nonetheless, the Black community made it through the tough times to thrive and survive the next several decades until the next major boom that has been growing over the last few years.

In the past decade, Black-owned businesses have generated over 206 billion dollars in revenue and supported 3.56 million U.S. jobs while only comprising 14.1 percent of the population in the U.S. Now, that may seem like a lot, but most Black businesses are struggling to keep the doors open as Black entrepreneurs rarely get any capital or loans from the bank and rely on personal funds and credit cards. The Black community must support Black businesses locally and nationally, as it has been proven throughout history that circulating our money in our neighborhood leads to positive outcomes.

The outcomes of shopping Black helps bridge the racial wealth gap between Black Americans and White Americans. It will strengthen your local economy, foster job opportunities, and help build healthy relations in the Black community. The support of Black businesses also puts pressure on big corporations to practice policies that respect and represent diverse Black culture. Building your community back starts with building up a Black-owned business near you, whether it’s a brick-and-mortar or a local vendor, every dollar and customer matters to these entrepreneurs.