Building the Black Metropolis: African American Entrepreneurship in Chicago

Robert E. Weems Jr. (Editor), Jason P. Chambers (Editor)

Research output: Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook


This book examines the entrepreneurial experiences of and contributions by African American entrepreneurs in Chicago. Through a careful examination of black business activity in areas such as finance, media, and the underground economy known as “Policy,” this work illuminates the manner in which blacks in Chicago built a network of competing and cooperative enterprises and a culture of entrepreneurship unique to the city. This network lay at the center of black business development in Chicago as it allowed blacks there greater opportunity to fund and build businesses reliant on other blacks rather than those whose interests lay outside the black community. Further, it examines how blacks’ business enterprises challenged and changed the economic and political culture of the city to help fashion black communities on Chicago’s South and West sides. For much of the 20th century, Chicago was considered the single best demonstration of blacks’ entrepreneurial potential. From the time the city was founded by black entrepreneur Jean Baptiste DuSable and throughout the 20th century, business enterprises have been part black community life. From DuSable through black business titans like John H. Johnson, Oprah Winfrey, and Anthony Overton black entrepreneurs called the city home and built their empires there. How they did so and the impact of their success (and failure) is a key theme within this book. Additionally, this work analyzes how blacks in Chicago built their enterprises at the same time grappling with the major cultural, political, and economic shifts in America in the 19th and 20th century.

Original languageEnglish (US)
PublisherUniversity of Illinois Press
Number of pages276
ISBN (Electronic)9780252050022
ISBN (Print)9780252082948
StatePublished - Sep 2017

Publication series

NameThe New Black Studies Series


  • history
  • African American business
  • entrepreneurs
  • Oprah Winfrey
  • John H Johnson
  • Ebony
  • Anthony Overton
  • South Side
  • Black Metropolis
  • Chicago Defender
  • Annie Malone
  • Policy Kings
  • Chicago Network

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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