Black Owned Businesses in the South, 1790-1880

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Loren L. Schweninger, Emeritus Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
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Abstract: This essay analyzes the changing configuration of black-owned businesses in the South over nearly a century. It divides region into two sections-the Lower South and the Upper South-and examines changes that occurred prior to 1840, during the late antebellum era, and as a result of the Civil War. It uses a "wealth model" to define various business groups, and then creates business occupational categories based on the listings in various sources, including the U.S. censuses for 1850, 1860, and 1870. The article compares and contrasts the wealth holdings among various groups of blacks in business, and it analyzes, within a comparative framework, slave entrepreneurship, rural vs. urban business activity, color-black or mulatto-as a variable in business ownership, and slave ownership among blacks engaged in business before than a generation after his death in the mid-1840s, Craven County residents still recalled the remarkable business career of John Carruthers Stanly, an emancipated slave who became one of the most prosperous businessmen in North Carolina. Born shortly before the American Revolution, the son of John Wright Stanly, a white merchant-shipper, and an African-born Ibo woman, Stanly had received an education and opened a barbershop while still in bondage. By the time he was emancipated by his owners, Alexander and Lydia Carruthers Stewart (friends of John W Stanly) at twenty-one, he had already acquired a reputation as an astute businessman. During the early 1800s, he turned his barbershop over to two trusted slaves and began speculating in real estate and slaves. By the late 1820s, he had acquired three cotton and turpentine plantations, several rental houses in New Bern, and approximately 163 slaves. His total assets exceeded $68,000. Eventually, as a result of a banking erisis and several bad loans, he lost most of his substantial wealth, but at the height of his business career in 1828 Stanly was one of the wealthiest men in Craven County.

Additional Information

Business History Review 63 (Spring 1989):22-60
Language: English
Date: 1989
Black-owned businesses, Wealth model

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