For far too long, historians who wrote on inter-racial and inter-ethnic relations focused almost exclusively on the victimization of various groups while ignoring the entrepreneurship and mutual aid that took place within those same ethnic groups.
Fortunately, the situation has been changing in recent decades. In my article “The Trouble With Public Accommodation,” for example, I looked at how some relatively recent scholarship has chronicled the economic importance of ethnic enclaves and small business development in increasing entrepreneurship among non-Anglo ethnic groups and among immigrant groups in general. Works of note on this topic include An American Story: Mexican American Entrepreneurship and Wealth Creation by Mary Ann Villarreal, and a collection of essays called Landscapes of the Ethnic Economy.
Now, a new book by Douglas Bristol examines how barbershops became an economic fixture for black business owners and black entrepreneurs during the 19th-century, both before and after the Civil War. Bristol’s book, Knights of the Razor: Black Barbers in Slavery and Freedom, examines not only how barber shops formed both a social and economic function within the black community, but also how barbers were able to build barbershop-based capital into other ventures such as insurance firms as well.