Princeton University’s Keller Center is kicking off a new initiative this spring that explores the history and legacy of Black entrepreneurship in the United States. Through a series of lectures, workshops and conversations lead by the country’s most prominent academic scholars, the Center aims to provide participants of this series with an opportunity to explore an often-neglected part of America’s entrepreneurial history.

The Black innovators and entrepreneurs of America’s past were fundamental to our country’s growth and success. They have overcome restrictive markets, segregation, Jim Crow laws, lack of access to capital, threats of violence and death, intellectual capital theft, and many other extreme challenges. Still, they thrived. These entrepreneurs have created innovations that have resulted in lasting societal and cultural changes far beyond the Black community.  For all interested in innovation and entrepreneurship, much can be learned from these entrepreneurs who have succeeded under some of the most daunting constraints.

Recently the Keller Center made a public commitment to put the understanding of racism and the ways it intersects with most of the world’s most pressing problems at the Center of its educational programming. This commitment requires both a comprehension of America’s complex history and an acknowledgment of the many contributions of Black entrepreneurs and innovators.

“It is essential for our students to learn both about and from America’s Black innovators of the past,” said Keller’s executive director Cornelia Huellstrunk, “and understand the impact and lessons on entrepreneurship today.” She also explained that the series will discuss the effects of systemic racial inequality in our country and how constraints on Black entrepreneurship and business development affect the overall economics of not only Black communities but our society as a whole.

In keeping with the Center’s mission to equip its community with the knowledge and tools needed to create sustainable, societal impact, this series will lay the foundation of understanding required to fulfill that challenge.