How White Terrorism Destroyed Black Businesses

Many sincere white Americans have asked, “why African Americans have failed to become as successful as other ethnic groups in America?”, especially recent immigrants to United States. The answer is lynchings…

The story of the murder of Elmore Bolling, a successful black businessman, by his jealous white neighbor in Alabama in 1949 is just a mere glimpse into the pattern of racist violence that has terrorized African Americans for generations. Contrary to popular belief, white Americans have destroyed prosperous black businesses in many communities.

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One of the most notorious of such incidents took place in Memphis in 1892. There, a store called People’s Grocery, which was owned by a successful black businessman, competed with a nearby white-owned shop. The People’s Grocery owner and two of his black employees were LYNCHED by white marauders in a horrific assault that reverberated throughout the nation and wiped out the entrepreneurial spirit of many African Americans in Memphis and elsewhere.

Ida B. Wells not only documented the extent of lynching but even more importantly debunked the “black rape myth.” This was the prevailing view at the turn of the 1900’s that the lynching of black men was somehow “justified” because they raped white women.

Using statistics from white newspapers, Wells revealed that lynchings in the South had causes, including the rising economic competition of African Americans with whites. Maintaining white supremacy, not the rape of white women, was the overall motivating factor, Wells concluded.

Wells later became an urban reformer and passionate suffragist, but her groundbreaking work was soon largely forgotten after she died in 1931. I hope she is not forgotten today.

Legrand H. Clegg II, Carl Martz

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