Black Business Month is here! At Self-Help, we take this time to recognize and celebrate the contributions of Black entrepreneurs and business leaders around the country because we believe that our country can only prosper when all have access to economic opportunity.
While it’s impossible to capture the full breadth of Black economic history in this short space, here are just a few highlights from the legacy of innovation, strength and vision of Black enterprise – big and small – that continues to move our country toward more inclusive prosperity.
Prosperity in the Face of Immense Challenges
While the official recognition of Black Business Month began in the 21st century, Black entrepreneurs throughout our country’s history have served as beacons for future generations of aspiring entrepreneurs, and they provided the backdrop for this celebration. Black entrepreneurs like Madame C.J. Walker, hair care entrepreneur and the first self-made woman millionaire in the United States, and Berry Gordy Jr., founder of Motown Records, among countless others forged paths and demonstrated the strength of Black economic self-sufficiency during times when most economic institutions and markets excluded Black Americans.
Throughout the 20th century, Black entrepreneurs and business leaders also formed organizations to promote and recognize the economic achievements of Black Americans. The National Negro Business League, founded in 1900 by Booker T. Washington, and the National Urban League, founded in 1910, promoted economic justice and business opportunities for Black Americans as a path toward civil rights. Other organizations, like the National Black Chamber of Commerce, the National Black MBA Association, just to name a few, followed in the footsteps of these historic efforts and continue to promote the interests of Black entrepreneurs.
In the segregated South, Black businesspeople in several cities created vital economic zones where Black-owned businesses thrived despite rampant violence and exclusion. Just blocks away from Self-Help’s downtown Durham, NC headquarters, is the site of Durham’s former Black Wall Street district, a dynamic and prosperous economic center built by the city’s Black entrepreneurs and business owners during the segregated late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Like a handful of other southern cities, the thriving Black-owned financial institutions, restaurants, and other services also served as a cultural hub for Durham’s Black community during a time when few other spaces for large-scale commercial activity were open to Black Americans.
Recognizing the Achievements of the Past, Bolstering Prosperity in the Present and Future
Black Business Month was the 2004 brainchild of a partnership between publisher and historian William Templeton and engineer Frederick E. Jordan Sr. Spurred by Jordan’s experiences struggling to finance his own business ventures in the face of widespread racial discrimination in the late 1960s, the pair developed this month-long celebration to bring forward policies to support and empower Black entrepreneurs.
Since then, Black Business Month has served as a platform to address the economic disparities that Black business owners face, and to foster collaboration, visibility and support for Black-owned businesses by encouraging intentional consumption. By redirecting consumer spending to Black-owned enterprises, consumers can contribute to community growth, job creation, and generational wealth.
Black Business Month activities also offers younger and aspiring Black entrepreneurs an opportunity to learn from the successes and challenges of their predecessors. In recent decades, social media platforms have also been instrumental in broadening the visibility of Black-owned businesses as vehicles for lasting social and economic justice.
Celebrating Our Black-Owned Business Partnerships
At Self-Help, we’re always thrilled to work with driven and visionary Black entrepreneurs to achieve their business dreams. If you’d like to learn more about the amazing achievements of the entrepreneurs we’ve been privileged to work with, check this handful of recent stories from our borrowers, tenants, and community partners: