"He ran his business like a white man" : race, entrepreneurship, and the early National Negro Business League in the New South
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Booker T. Washington organized the National Negro Business League (NNBL) in 1900, and it became the largest and most influential black business organization for much of the twentieth century. Enterprising black men and women in the NNBL linked their entrepreneurial activities to a modern, progressive social and political agenda. They relied on discourses of race, nation, and business that were both modern, radical, and progressive and traditional, conservative, and reactionary. The thesis moves beyond prosaic debates about the efficacy of black business and black economic nationalism to consider how black entrepreneurs in the NNBL interacted with the material and cultural dimensions of the political economy. A disconnect often existed between the grand ambitions of the executive leadership and the intrigues of the local league membership. Race and entrepreneurship drew attention to lapses in the rhetoric of progress and change in the New South. Finally, it looks at interracial cooperation and conflict in the NNBL. By privileging blacks' struggles for liberation, the thesis enhances understanding about the many ways blacks struggled to strike a tenable balance between personal agency and structural constraints.