Facilitating the Next Golden Age of Black Business

To combat the racial wealth gap and support Black business growth, companies and leaders can learn from lessons of early 20th century innovators.

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In recent years, a growing recognition of deep inequities in the global economy has served as a much needed push for financial institutions, philanthropic organizations, governments, and corporations to invest in Black business.

Take the example of the PNC Foundation, the philanthropic arm of PNC Financial Services, which in October 2021 donated $16.8 million to launch the Howard University and PNC National Center for Entrepreneurship. Howard University, a historically Black research university, will also work alongside other historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), such as Morgan State University, Clark Atlanta University, and Texas Southern University, to give the center a national footprint.

Likewise, in November 2022, Robert F. Smith, the founder, chairman, and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, launched a program alongside investment companies Stackwell and Prudential that will provide 500 students from HBCUs and minority-serving institutions (MSIs) with $1,000 grants to invest, along with hands-on investment education.1 Smith, an African American billionaire and the visionary behind the Student Freedom Initiative, sees the promise of a global economy where underrepresented groups are not left behind. The launch of the Stackwell and Prudential partnership, Smith said, “shows what the power of intentionality and collaboration can do to create long-term solutions to combat the racial wealth gap.”

These recent efforts represent a step in the right direction to help grow the pipeline of Black entrepreneurs and stimulate a new era of prosperity for the Black community — one that is reminiscent of the golden age of Black business, as business historian Juliet Walker has described the period from roughly 1900 to 1930, when Black businesses flourished in the U.S.2 During that time, Black businesses such as North Carolina Mutual, Atlanta Life Insurance, the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank, and others thrived due to the cooperative advantage that was achieved by those companies and their leaders. In our book, African American Management History: Insights on Gaining a Cooperative Advantage, we hypothesized that this was due to a spirit of care and community, consensus-building, and dialogue that they engendered within their organizations and the wider community.



1. A. Wray, “Black Billionaire, Banks Partner to Give HBCU Students $1,000 to Invest in Stocks,” AL.com, Nov. 29, 2022, www.al.com.

2. J.E. Walker, “The History of Black Business in America: Capitalism, Race, Entrepreneurship,” 2nd ed. (Chapel Hill, North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press, 2009).

3. L.C. Prieto and S.T.A. Phipps, “African American Management History: Insights on Gaining a Cooperative Advantage” (Bingley, U.K.: Emerald Publishing, 2019).

4. L. Prieto, S. Phipps, L. Giugni, et al., “Teaching (Cooperative) Business: The ‘Bluefield Experiment’ and the Future of Black Business Schools,” Academy of Management Learning & Education 20, no. 3 (September 2021): 320-341.

5. L.M. Brooks and R.G. Lynch, “Consumer Problems and the Cooperative Movement in the Curricula of Southern Negro Colleges,” Social Forces 22, no. 4 (May 1944): 429-436.

6. L.C. Prieto, S.T.A. Phipps, and H.C. McKoy Jr., “Supporting Black Business Ecosystems: Lessons From Durham’s Black Wall Street,” MIT Sloan Management Review, Feb. 24, 2022, https://sloanreview.mit.edu.

7. D. Davis, “Black Funders Still Raised Just 1% of all VC Funds in 2022,” TechCrunch, Jan. 6, 2023, https://techcrunch.com.

8. C.V. Trawick, “Annie Malone and Poro College: Building an Empire of Beauty in St. Louis, Missouri From 1915 to 1930” (Ph.D. diss., University of Missouri, 2011).

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