In his speech in 1934, sociologist and civil rights activist William E. B. du Bois called on Black communities across the country to develop an economic nation within a nation. He was a lifelong advocate of economic cooperation to enable African Americans to shape their own economic destiny.
His concept of “racial economic cooperation” is well documented in the work of Dr. Jessica Gordon-Nembhard, author of Collective Courage: A History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice, which explores the tradition of Black cooperative economic development in the context of the long struggle for civil rights. A political economist specializing in community economics, Black political economy and popular economic literacy, Gordon-Nembhard is a professor of Community Justice and Social Economic Development at John Jay College, NYC.
Her interest in cooperative economics developed while working for the Children’s Defense Fund in Washington, DC in the 1990s, where she explored family friendly community-based strategies.
With anti-racist protests taking place in the U.S. and around the world, could the co-op model help to address some of the barriers faced by Black communities? “I think there is a lot we can learn from the past,” Gordon-Nembhard says.