Food for thought:
“A man only begins to be a man when he ceases to whine and revile, and commences to search for the hidden justice which regulates his life. And as he adapts his mind to that regulating factor, he ceases to accuse others as the cause of his condition, and builds himself up in strong and noble thoughts; ceases to kick against circumstances, but begins to use them as aids to his more rapid progress, and as a means of discovering the hidden powers and possibilities within himself.”
From Outposts to Enclaves: A Social History of Black Barbers from 1750 to 1915 – Douglas Bristol, Jr.
Abstract excerpt: The story of black barbers contributes to the recent effort of business historians to engage the larger culture by bringing together business and African American history. While exploring issues commonly associated with the history of the firm uncovered a tradition of enterprise that stretches back to the early nineteenth century, investigating questions from the repertoire of social history sheds new light on race relations and ideological debates within the African American community. The men whose lives are chronicled by this dissertation also emerge as figures worthy of historical study on their own merit; in addition to becoming the most successful African American businessmen in the nineteenth century, black barbers distinguished themselves through their wit, savoir-faire, and tenacity. To answer the inevitable question of what prompted a study of black barbers requires a brief historiographical detour. Although a small body of literature on African American business has accumulated over the past thirty years, the topic has labored under the burden of refuting scholars such as Howard University sociologist E. Franklin Frazier, [End Page 594] who concluded that “the Negro lacks a business tradition.” Frazier and others argued that slavery and discrimination prevented African Americans from acquiring experience in commerce and industry, which explained why there were no black Rosenwalds or Kennedys. In the broadest terms, such assertions are true insomuch as they disregard small businesses, particularly in the service sector, where African Americans have historically occupied an economic niche.
A personal discourse of dependency is not a “black thing.” It’s a personal thing and has been attached to a people largely through the misplaced narratives of an external community unwilling to peek at their own hypocrisy. When the mainstream media latched on to Daniel Moynihan’s empirically bankrupt theories on “black culture,” it created a new pseudo-objective body of talking points for misunderstanding Black folk. Entrepreneurial, enterprising and dedicated men and women who lived by these principles have been staples of Black life since the 1600’s.
“In 1815, whites in Charleston discovered that black Methodists had been secretly pooling money to buy freedom for enslaved congregants. Whites moved to restrict black autonomy. They planned to construct a hearse house on top of a black burial ground, a move Charleston blacks saw as a final insult. Over 4,000 black members left white churches in protest, and formed an African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston. Denmark Vesey followed them, leaving the segregated Second Presbyterian Church, where slaves were taught the words of St. Paul: “Servants, obey your masters.” In the AME Church, Vesey found the freedom to preach his beliefs.”
Such is the legacy that is left behind when schools fails to teach, when parents choose not to recall, and when communities choose to look only toward the future. There is plenty that is worth remembering. Fortitude and character are timeless. The resolve to transform our spiritual, mental and material condition will always require concerted, concentrated EFFORT to create predictable, replicable results. It has been done before and will be done again.