This presentation will examine the historical creation of Black business communities in the context of the Exoduster movement, the first major migration of African Americans out of the southern and border states. The Exodusters initially included thousands of Black residents who signed emigration papers in the late 1870s, fleeing white terrorism and adverse economic conditions that made upward mobility and entrepreneurship unlikely in the post-Reconstruction South. Along with subsequent land rushes, the Exoduster movement catalyzed the emergence of African-American communities on the western frontier -- in Kansas, Colorado, and Oklahoma -- between 1880 and 1910.

To illustrate the resulting pattern of Black entrepreneurship, this talk will focus initially on Nicodemus, Kansas, a National Historical Site with well-preserved archival information and historic maps. The town of Nicodemus also featured a confluence of African-American entrepreneurs whose views articulated different approaches to political economy and race relations within the Exoduster movement. It will then turn to Census data on more than one-hundred African-American communities that emerged on the Great Plains within the three decades after the Exoduster migration. These business communities inform a general model of minority-majority group relations and predictions of how this economic interface affects entrepreneurial activity. 

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Speaker Bios

Dr. Martin Ruef is the Jack and Pamela Egan Distinguished Professor of Entrepreneurship at Duke University. His research considers the social context of entrepreneurship from both a contemporary and historical perspective. He draws on large-scale surveys of entrepreneurs in the United States to explore processes of team formation, innovation, exchange, and boundary maintenance in nascent business startups. His historical analyses address entrepreneurial activity and constraint during periods of profound institutional change. This work has considered a diverse range of sectors, including the organizational transformation of Southern agriculture and industry after the Civil War, African American entrepreneurship under Jim Crow, the transition of the U.S. healthcare system from professional monopoly to managed care, and the character of entrepreneurship during early mercantile and industrial capitalism.

Ihsan Beezer is a PhD student in Organization Management at Rutgers Business School. He is also affiliated with The Rutgers Advanced Institute for the Study of Entrepreneurship and Development (RAISED). His research focuses on urban and minority entrepreneurship. He holds a B.A. in Economics from the University of Maryland, College Park and M.S. in Management from the Kenan-Flagler Business School of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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Open to the public and the campus community.

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