Lessons from the 'Golden Age' of Black business

In this June 15, 2020 file photo, Freeman Culver stands in front of a mural listing the names of businesses destroyed during the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre in Tulsa, Okla. Attorneys for victims and their descendants affected by the 1921 massacre filed a lawsuit in state court on Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020, against the City of Tulsa and other defendants seeking reparations for the destruction of the city's once thriving Black district. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

From 1900 to 1930, many Black business communities in the United States thrived, including right here in Atlanta.

Dr. Leon Prieto, a professor of management at Clayton State University and director of the university’s Center for Social Innovation & Sustainable Entrepreneurship, refers to this as the “Golden Age” of black business.

He and colleague Dr. Simone Phipps say this success was built on a cooperative economic mindset rooted in traditional African ideology.

They recently published an article that highlights how companies and leaders can learn from Black innovators of the “Golden Age” in order to combat the racial and wealth gap and support the growth of Black businesses today.

Prieto said earlier African-American communities benefited from this cooperative advantage, but that it was in large part lost following the Great Depression. He joined WABE’s “All Things Considered” to talk about lessons learned from this history.

“After the Great Depression, folks adopted that Protestant work ethic, which was more individualistic in nature, and many people forgot about that whole cooperative work ethic,” said Prieto.