An Untold Story: Cooperative Economics and Civil Rights

“In your book, every famous name in Black America speaks out about co-ops. Why isn’t this history better known?” asks Laura Flanders in her 2014 interview with researcher and author Dr. Jessica Gordon Nembhard.

“Well that was my question, right? I was trying to figure out what happened and every time I was talking about it, people would tell me Black people don’t do co-ops – until I would lay out the story for them.”

In their conversation, Flanders and Dr. Nembhard unpack the rich, nuanced, and mostly hidden history of cooperative black economics in U.S. history. They explore the duel threads of necessity and danger woven throughout the black experience in relation to cooperative economics, as well as how memories and associations still available can to spur a new wave of interest and activity  around these practices in today’s communities and neighborhoods.

 

 

About the episode:

What role did economic cooperation play in the civil rights movement?

As it turns out, a huge one. This forgotten history is the focus of Dr. Jessica Gordon Nembhard’s recent book Collective Courage: A History of African-American Economic Thought and Practice, out in bookstores in May. In 2014, the LF Show was one of the first to report on Gordon Nembhard’s work on Black cooperativism and civil rights. Gordon Nembhard has received wide acclaim for both her book and her cooperative work. In August 2016, she ws inducted into the Cooperative Hall of Fame, standing along side cooperative movement heroes such as Shirley Sherrod (former LF guest) and Melbah Smith. Gordon Nembhard is Professor of Community Justice and Social Economic Development in the Department of Africana Studies at John Jay College, of the City University of New York (CUNY).

In 2014, the LF Show was one of the first to report on Gordon Nembhard’s work on Black cooperativism and civil rights. Gordon Nembhard has received wide acclaim for both her book and her cooperative work. In August 2016, she ws inducted into the Cooperative Hall of Fame, standing along side cooperative movement heroes such as Shirley Sherrod (former LF guest) and Melbah Smith. Gordon Nembhard is Professor of Community Justice and Social Economic Development in the Department of Africana Studies at John Jay College, of the City University of New York (CUNY).

Gordon Nembhard’s research has had formidable impact on the worker co-op sector. co-founded the U.S. Federation of Worker Co-ops and helped that organization build lasting ties with prominent civil rights and cooperative organizations. She is also an active member of the Grassroots Economic Organizing Newsletter collective and recently joined the board of directors of Green Worker Cooperatives.

Originally published at https://lauraflanders.org/2014/08/african-american-cooperatives-and-civil-rights-jessica-gordon-nembhard.

 

Going Further:

About the Lead Author

Jessica Gordon Nembhardhttps://www.jjay.cuny.edu/faculty/jessica-gordon-nembhard
JESSICA GORDON NEMBHARD is PROFESSOR of Community Justice and Social Economic Development in the Department of Africana Studies at John Jay College, of the City University of New York (CUNY) in New York City, USA, where she is also Director of the McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program. She is an affiliate scholar at the Centre for the Study of Co-operatives at the University of Saskatchewan in Canada, where she is co-investigator for the “Measuring the Impact of Credit Unions,” Community and University Research Partnerships (CURA) project; and an affiliate scholar with the Economics Department’s Center on Race and Wealth at Howard University. Dr. Gordon Nembhard is a political economist specializing in community economics, Black Political Economy and popular economic literacy. Her research and publications explore problematics and alternative solutions in cooperative economic development and worker ownership, community economic development, wealth inequality and community-based asset building, and community-based approaches to justice. She has recently completed a book on Black cooperatives: Collective Courage: A History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice (2014 The Pennsylvania State University Press). Collective Courage was a finalist for the University of Memphis Benjamin L. Hicks National Book Award for 2014. Gordon Nembhard’s publications include: “Understanding and Measuring the Benefits and Impacts of Co-operatives” (2015 in Co-operatives for Sustainable Communities: Tools to Measure Co-operative Impact and Performance St. Mary’s University Halifax); “Community-Based Asset Building and Community Wealth” (2014 Review of Black Political Economy); “Community Development Credit Unions: Securing and Protecting Assets in Black Communities” (2013 Review of Black Political Economy); Wealth Accumulation and Communities of Color in the US (2006, co-edited with Ngina Chiteji); “Micro Enterprise and Cooperative Development in Economically Marginalized Communities in the U.S.” (In Enterprise, Social Exclusion and Sustainable Communities, 2011); “Theorizing and Practicing Democratic Community Economics: Engaged Scholarship, Economic Justice, and the Academy” (In Engaging Contradictions, 2008); “Cooperative Ownership in the Struggle for African American Economic Empowerment” (2004 Humanity & Society); and “Educating Black Youth for Economic Empowerment: Democratic Economic Participation and School Reform Practices and Policies” (in Handbook of African American Education, 2008). Dr. Gordon Nembhard is the 2014 recipient of the “ONI Award” from the International Black Women’s Congress, and the 2011 recipient of the “Cooperative Advocacy and Research” Award from the Eastern Conference for Workplace Democracy. She is a member of the Shared Leadership Team of Organizing Neighborhood Equity (ONE) DC, and member of the board of directors of the Association of Cooperative Educators (ACE), Grassroots Economic Organizing (GEO) Newsletter (and Ecological Democracy Institute of North America Vice President), the CEJJES Institute (past President and current Treasurer); and former board member of the National Economic Association (past President and past Treasurer) and founding board member of the Political Economy Research Institute, University of Massachusetts, Amherst (currently on the advisory board). She is a co-founder of the U.S. Solidarity Economy Network; the Eastern Conference for Workplace Democracy; and the Democracy Collaborative (at the University of Maryland). In addition, she is a charter member of the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives; a member of The Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund, and a member of the Southern Grassroots Economies Project. Dr. Gordon Nembhard was a visiting scholar in the Economics Department at Howard University (2008-09), and was Master Teacher (July 2007 and 2009) at its Center on Race and Wealth’s Summer Institute for Research on Race and Wealth. She was previously Assistant Professor of African American Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park; Research Director of the Preamble Center (Washington, DC); Senior Economist at the Institute for Urban Research, Morgan State University; and Acting Deputy Director and Economic Development Analyst for the Black Community Crusade for Children at the Children’s Defense Fund. She is the recipient of a Henry C. Welcome Fellowship Grant from the Maryland Higher Education Commission (2001-2004). She received a 2008 USDA grant on the economic impact of cooperatives (distributed through the University of Wisconsin’s Center for Cooperatives) to study wealth accumulation through cooperative ownership. She began her appointment to the Black Enterprise Board of Economists in October 1999. Jessica Gordon Nembhard earned a Ph.D. and an M.A. in economics from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst (1992 and 1989, respectively). She earned her B.A. degree, magna cum laude, in Literature and African American Studies from Yale University (1978); and an M.A.T. in Elementary Curriculum and Teaching from Howard University (1982). She is the proud mother of two children (Stephen and Susan) and two grandsons (Stephon and Hugo Nembhard).

The Latest

A Call to Connection

The Common Good podcast is a conversation about the significance of place, eliminating economic isolation and the structure of...

Featured

More Articles Like This