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NPQ: The Bluefield Experiment in Co-op Economics; Why it Matters for HBCUs Today

03 Nov 2021
Between the Civil War and the end of segregation, over 100 historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) were founded in the South. Many have business and economics departments. Once these schools were leaders in teaching critical political economy, but this leadership has largely disappeared.

Originally found at Nonprofit Quarterly by Simone Phipps, Leon Prieto, Lilia Giugni, and Neil Stott

This article is, with publisher permission, adapted from a more extensive journal article, Teaching (Cooperative) Business: The “Bluefield Experiment” and the Future of Black Business Schools,” published by the Academy of Management Learning & Education.

Between the Civil War and the end of segregation, over 100 historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) were founded in the South. Many have business and economics departments. Once these schools were leaders in teaching critical political economy (see Haynes & Gordon Nembhard, 1999), but this leadership has largely disappeared.

What happened? The case of the department of business administration at Bluefield Institute (now known as Bluefield State College), West Virginia, is informative. In the 1920s and 1930s, Bluefield’s business school developed an extensive program of cooperative economics and experiential business teaching. Today, few traces of this pedagogical innovation remain.

The idea that Black business schools could and should do more to have a greater social impact, instead of simply “teaching capitalism” to a demographic that traditionally lacked access to capital, has existed for over a century. A key influence that emerged at Bluefield was the work of pioneering African American thinker and civil rights leader W.E.B. Du Bois (1868 -1963). Today, Du Bois occupies a central place in post-colonial and African American studies (Gates Jr., 2011). However, his seminal thinking on economic cooperation has received comparatively little attention (Gordon Nembhard, 2014). By reviving this forgotten legacy and reconstructing the influence it had on a prominent HBCU, we help recover a rich and intricate history of Black business schools as sites of intellectual, political, and economic activism.


Continue reading the original article at Nonprofit Quarterly

Read the original research in Academy of Management Learning & Education

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