Juliet E.K. Walker, “Racism, Slavery, and Free Enterprise,” Business History Review, v. 60 (Autumn 1986), pp. 343-383.
1. What is “entrepreneurship” (used in the title)? What is the “free enterprise system”? Can a country have a capitalist free enterprise system and not have a politically free system?
*Note: “antebellum” means “before the war” and in US history refers to the period from about 1800 to 1861 (when the Civil War began).
2. How many blacks in this period were entrepreneurs? Why? Why did they become entrepreneurs? What kinds of enterprises did blacks establish?
3. What is Walker’s thesis or main purpose in this article? How does she categorize the black entrepreneurs? By what measure? What kinds of evidence does she use to support her argument?
4. In 1860, what was the “national mean wealth” of Americans? One source in 1846 listed wealthy black Philadelphians. What kinds of businesses did they run? James Forten? Stephen Smith? Where were most of the wealthiest 21 black entrepreneurs from? Pierre Cazenave? Cecee McCarty? Marie Therez? William Leidesdorff (and what was different about Leidesdorff?)?
5. List several occupations associated with the various categories of wealth.
6. Who was R.G. Dun & Company? What did their reports include?
7. What was exceptional about New Orleans for black entrepreneurs? Why? What starts to happen in the 1850s?
8. According to Walker, what kinds of characteristics did black and white entrepreneurs share?
9. What was a “self-hired bondsman” or “slave entrepreneur”? Describe Free Frank. Robert Gordon? Simon Gray?
10. What motivated the black entrepreneurs? (skim this section but be able to answer this question)
11. According to Walker, what is the “paradox” about private property laws and their impact on black entrepreneurs?
Scott Sandage, “Going Bust in the Age of Go-Ahead,” Born Losers: A History of Failure in America (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2005), 22-43.
1. What is the author’s thesis in this chapter?
2. What was a “panic”? When did major panics occur in 1800s in the United States? Causes for the two discussed here?
3. Who was Joseph Hornor? Why does the author discuss him in this chapter?
4. What happened to failed debtors in the United States in the first half of the nineteenth century? Who might decide their fate?
5. In debating whether to reform bankruptcy laws, what arguments did various Americans make for and against reform? More generally, what values did people invoke in this discussion?
6. How does the author contrast the values of the Republican era (when was that?) and a more liberal era (when was that?)? What caused the transition, and why was that transition incomplete as the chapter ends?
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