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An Enterprising Spirit

A black and white photograph of Johnny Gator's barbershop.

In pursuing the American dream of economic opportunity, African Americans created institutions to serve, sustain, and empower Black communities. Skilled artisans, inventors, and entrepreneurs who achieved financial success invested their wealth to help open doors for others. Black-owned businesses provided goods, services, and employment. Many businesses that operated in Black neighborhoods and commercial districts also served as sites of social interaction. As African Americans integrated the workforce and the marketplace, they led efforts to promote equal opportunities for all.

"Do for Self": The Nation of Islam's Economic Program

Through education and widespread business ventures, the Nation of Islam (1930–1975) sought realignment of economic and political power for African Americans.

Photograph of Muslim woman at Saviour’s Day

An Enterprising Spirit: Resources

NMAAHC Collection Search

Black Enterprise

Search the Museum’s online collection for items related to business, entrepreneurship, and the pursuit of economic independence

Light brown egg carton for one dozen eggs.

Center for Black Business History, Entrepreneurship, and Technology

The University of Texas at Austin

Founded in 2002 by Professor Juliet E. K. Walker, the center promotes the study of Black business from various disciplines in liberal arts

CBBJET Website

History and Legacy of Black Entrepreneurship in the United States

Keller Center at Princeton University

Lectures and workshops from a 2021 scholarly forum on the history of Black entrepreneurship and innovation

BlackPast.org

Business Archives

Browse business-related entries from this online reference center devoted to African American history

Screenshot of BlackPast.org