African-American Business Leaders Essay
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African-American Business Leaders Essay
African-American, Business, Leaders, Essay
African-American Business Leaders: A Biographical Dictionary Henderson, Alexa Benson . Business History Review ; Boston Vol. 68, Iss. 2, (Summer 1994): 289.
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African-American Business Leaders: A Biographical Dictionary, by John N. Ingham and Lynne B. Feldman, is
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African-American Business Leaders: A Biographical Dictionary. By John. N. Ingham and Lynne B. Feldman *
Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Publishing, 1993. xiv + 806 pp. Appendixes, bibliographic essay, and index. $99.50.
This volume, comprising more than eight hundred pages, contains 77 comprehensive biographical essays for 123 individual African American business leaders. Taken together, these individuals represent the most historically significant black entrepreneurs from the mid-1800s until approximately the Second World War.
Each essay includes up-to-date and extensive bibliographical data, which make this compilation a particularly useful tool for researchers and scholars of African American business history seeking reference materials and new directions for more in-depth studies in these areas.
Broadly, too, there is much to be learned by the general student of African American history and also by the casual reader interested in gaining perspective on the post-Civil War experience of African Americans. Moreover, it is an excellent reference work for secondary school and college libraries.
The biographical essays cover the range of business endeavors engaged in by African Americans in the period of review. In financial services and insurance, a category that includes banking, loan associations, investors, money lenders, and factorages, seventy-six individual entrepreneurs are listed.
In the retailing and service industries, forty individuals and five families are discussed. These include business people engaged in enterprises such as undertaking, barbering, catering, drug and grocery store proprietorships, car dealerships, and general merchandising.
Another large segment, comprising seventy-three entries, includes individual African Americans in the publishing, advertising, broadcasting, and other media areas. A final group of entries, totaling thirty-six, is composed of people in real estate, construction, and agriculture.
In some instances, an individual business woman or man is counted in more than one category. The essays also reflect African American entrepreneurial endeavors within a group of important southern cities and major northern centers, although the authors state that “some deserving individuals were inevitably left out of this collection” (p. viii).
Southern cities such as Atlanta, Birmingham, Durham, Nashville, New Orleans, Charleston, Richmond, and Washington, D.C., as well as northern and western cities including Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and several others are given broad coverage, but the authors admit that little attention is paid to New England, Cleveland, Detroit, and Buffalo, among others.
It is perhaps significant to note that the largest single group represents Chicago, with nineteen African American entrepreneurs included in the volume. A few essays, from Mississippi and Alabama, show the involvement of African American entrepreneurs in southern rural areas.
References to the place of birth of the business leaders cited suggest that the southern states of Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi had the largest number, with each state having fourteen entries.
Nine essays attest to https://search.proquest.com/docview/274465349?accountid=8289 the leadership of African American women in business. Among the successful business careers chronicled in the volume are the uncle-nephew team of newspaper publishers, Robert Sengstacke Abbott (1868-1940) and John Herman Henry Sengstacke (1912- ).
Abbott, a native of Georgia, received training in the printing trade at Hampton Institute and, after relocating to Chicago and earning a law degree, he entered the newspaper business. In 1905, he began publishing the Chicago Defender, which by 1915 “had achieved the status of the most successful black paper in Chicago, and it was well on its way to becoming one of the largest black-owned businesses in the United States” (pp. 7-8).
At Abbott’s death, his nephew, John H. Sengstacke, assumed leadership and by 1982 headed a syndicated organization that included “the Chicago Defender, the Memphis Tri-State Defender, the Michigan Chronicle, and the Courier newspapers published in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Ohio, Detroit, Georgia and Florida” (pp. 13-14).
Sengstacke, as organizer and first president, is also credited with founding the National Newspaper Publishers Association.
In the category of newspaper publishing, essays are provided also for the father-son team of Richard Henry Boyd (1843-1922) and Henry Allen Boyd (187-1952) of Nashville, founder of the National Baptist Publishing Board and publishers of the Nashville Globe;
brothers William Alexander Scott (1902-34) and Cornelius Adolphus Scott (1908-), publishers of the Atlanta Daily World and owners of the Scott Newspaper Syndicate; William Calvin Chase, Sr. (1854-1921), publisher and editor of the Washington Bee; P.
- S. Pinchback (1837-1921), publisher of the New Orleans Louisianian; and Robert Lee Vann (1879-1940), organizer and publisher of the Pittsburgh Courier, an early rival of the Defender.
The authors note that Vann built a black newspaper with national circulation that, like
Abbott’s Defender, was able to influence millions,…to create patterns of migration from the South to the North, to define issues and tactics for fighting discrimination nationwide,…and to create viable economic institutions that nonetheless managed to be politically sensitive and aware, and which acted as a voice for African Americans during a particularly critical time in the nation’s history (p. 641).
With the inclusion of more recent African American entrepreneurs, such as Earl Graves (1935- ), publisher of Black Enterprise magazine, this reference tool offers a compact analysis of the leading African American figures in the print media in the twentieth century.
In the categories of banking, insurance, and other financial services, the authors provide biographies of the earliest African Americans to engage in these professions. Essays are included for Jesse Binga (1865-1950), who operated the Binga State Bank, described as “the largest and most important black bank in Chicago” (p. 79);
Robert Reed Church, Sr. (1839-1912), progenitor of the renowned Church family of Memphis and the leading organizer of the Solvent Savings Bank and Trust Company; Maggie Lena Walker (1867-1934), organizer of the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank and “the first woman bank president in America, black or white” (p. 670);
and Richard Robert Wright, Sr. (1853-1947), organizer with son Richard Wright, Jr. (1878-1967) of the Citizens and Southern Bank and Trust Company of Philadelphia, an enterprise described as “one of the largest, most successful black banks in the North” (p. 715).
Cross-referenced with bankers are biographies of insurance entrepreneurs Arthur G. Gaston (1892- ), real estate investor, community leader, and founder of the Booker T. Washington Insurance Company and the Citizens Federal Savings Bank of Birmingham;
John Merrick (1859-1919), Charles Clinton Spaulding (1874-1952), William. Jesse Kennedy, Jr. (1889-1985), and later generations of leaders associated with the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company, Mechanics and Farmers Bank, and Mutual Savings and Loan of Durham, North Carolina; Heman Edward Perry (1873-1929), founder of the Citizens Trust Bank and Standard Life Insurance Company in Atlanta;
and members of the Walker family of Memphis, organizers of the Universal Life Insurance Company and Tri-State Bank. The business careers of African American women are given least attention in the volume. Besides essays on the leadership of Maggie Walker and Patricia Walker Shaw (1939-85), the careers of two pioneering women in the hair care industry are reviewed:
Sarah Breedlove (Madame C. J.) Walker (1867-1919), organizer of the Madame C. J. Walker Manufacturing Company, and Annie Turnbo-Malone (1869-1957), proprietor and promoter of the Poro Manufacturing Company and Poro College.
The contemporary businesswomen cited include Suzanne de Passe, entertainment company executive with Motown Industries, and Naomi Sims, fashion model and wig and cosmetic entrepreneur.
In this publication, Ingham and Feldman make an important contribution to scholarship that, despite the exclusions specified and an obvious gender bias, will allow for fuller inclusion of African Americans when studying American business leadership. As a biographical dictionary, the study fulfills its purpose of providing biographical information on the selected leaders–much of which is unavailable elsewhere–in a readily accessible format.
Its most impressive features for the researcher, however, are the compilation and analysis of sources, both primary and secondary, that conclude each essay and the comprehensive biographical information on black business and business leadership in individual cities and states provided at the end of the volume.
Alexa Benson Henderson is associate dean for undergraduate studies and professor of history at Clark Atlanta University. She is the author of Atlanta Life Insurance Company: Guardian of Black Economic Dignity (1990) and of several articles, including “Heman E. Perry and Black Enterprise in Atlanta, 1908-1925,” Business History Review (1987).
Her current work focuses on African Americans in banking. Details
Subject: History; Business ownership; Book reviews; Blacks
Classification: 9521: Minority- &women-owned businesses; 9190: US
Publication title: Business History Review; Boston
Number of pages: 4
Publication year: 1994
Publication date: Summer 1994
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Place of publication: Boston
Country of publication: United Kingdom, Boston
Publication subject: Business And Economics, History
Source type: Scholarly Journals
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Language of publication: English
Document type: PERIODICAL
Accession number: 00962717
ProQuest document ID: 274465349
Document URL: https://search.proquest.com/docview/274465349?accountid=8289
Copyright: Copyright Harvard Business School, Soldiers Field Summer 1994
Last updated: 2015-08-15
Database: ProQuest Central
African-American Business Leaders: A Biographical Dictionary