Black entrepreneurship can be traced back to when Africans were first brought to North America as slaves in the 1600s. Many African Americans who gained their own freedom out of slavery opened their own businesses.
However, some still faced hostile reception and operated on a lower scale. Profit-making businesses were created by more free and enslaved African Americans than one might realize from the usual survey of antebellum America. Business men like Lunsford Lane, William J. Brown, James Fortein and Elizabeth Kechely were early pioneers for the Black people in America, fighting against the major hurdle of discrimination and yet still thriving against all odds.
Businesses in America generally have always relied on manpower. Successful businesses,emphasizing more on the necessity to be hardworking to rake in massive profit while defying the odds, supplying en masse to meet an ever rising demand.
South Carolina was one of the original thirteen states of the United States and it leverages this as one of the earliest business hubs in the country. It’s rapid development equally contributed to by the arrivals of slaves after resumption Yameese war. It’s notable preference for Agriculture visible with varying rice, cotton and indigo plantations across the state. The varying revolutionary approaches by the slaves to be freed was met with varying resistance then as the constituted workforce that helped the businesses expand.
Craven County residents still recall 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 , and approximately 163 slaves. His total assets exceeded $68,000.
Eventually, due to the banking crisis 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. The vast majority of blacks in the early nineteenth-century South struggled merely to survive, much less to gain their freedom and establish business enterprises. Most were relegated to a life of perpetual bondage; the few who did gain the status of freedmen often discovered that in freedom they were little better off economically than they had been as slaves. In some cases they fared worse, since at least in bondage they had been provided with the necessities. Yet, beginning in the late eighteenth century and continuing during the first eight decades of the nineteenth, an increasing number of blacks in the South were able to establish various types of business enterprises.
This subsequent freedom, Led to them invariably starting out their own businesses. The 1860s were particularly a good period for the few free black population who managed to start trading on better scale than they had ever before. This was in no part due to a better relationship which was borne out of their better education and better skillsets.Revolutionaries like Denmark Vessey had wanted freedom for more slaves as the ever increasing black population still had major fraction in slavery. An in depth look at the history of South Carolina details how eighty five percent of its black population were in slave plantations as at 1830. In fact fifty seven percent of the population in 1860 were tagged as enslaved black Americans, an all time high.
According to Loren Schweninger’s 1989 publication; the growth and expansion of the free Negro population in the South between 1790 and 1840 led to the emergence of two distinct groups of Negro entrepreneurs. In the lower states, in no part to its relatively small and largely mulatto free Negro population, free persons of color had many advantages over their brethren in the upper states. Especially in Charleston and New Orleans. However, in some farming districts, a distinct free Negro business class emerged. Often directly related to the white slaveholding class, these entrepreneur’s were persons of substantial means who owned prosperous enterprises. Free blacks in the upper states, on the other hand, rarely established themselves in business, and those who did maintained small operations working as artisans.
The wealth of the Black American people of South Carolina in business didn’t come fully until after the revolution however, that in itself not after the colossal losses suffered immediately post-war with many of the businessmen recording losses of up to $5000.
The businesses that kept up immediately were the prosperous shoemakers Malcolm Brown and John Mishaw, hairdresser John Francis, barber Peter Brown, stablekeeper Jacob Green, and woodyard owner Robert Howard. In Savannah, and along the Gulf Coast in Pensacola and Mobile, a few free people of color maintained shops and stores, and in Huntsville and Florence (Ala.), Natchez, and Baton Rouge, ran livery stables, omnibus lines, barbershops, grocery stores, and mercantile firms.
Some of these businessmen include: Sylvia Woods who opened a food chain in 1962. She is referred as the Queen of soul food, Dave Drake, Edmund Perry Palmer, Earl Matthew Middleton, Isom Bartrone Lowman amongst other notable South Carolinans.
South Carolina is a hub with a predominant black population, that relies on its own market to boost her economy.