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Confronting the Odds

African American Entrepeneurship in Cleveland, Ohio

Bessie House-Soremekun

Publication Year: 2009

An updated and revised edition of the award-winning study

The history of African American entrepreneurship has produced a number of studies of economic development on the national level, but very few have examined this growth at the local level. Confronting the Odds was written to bridge that gap, and Bessie House-Soremekun provides this historical analysis of African American entrepreneurship in Cleveland, Ohio, from the early 1800s to the present. Additionally, in examining these historical and current trends, House-Soremekun presents brief biographies of several successful entrepreneurs, among them George C. Fraser, best-selling author; Robert P. Madison, internationally acclaimed architect; Leroy Ozanne, founder of Ozanne Construction Company; and Rachel Y. Daniel, Chief Customer Experience Officer, Synergy International Limited, Inc. and Decision Point Marketing and Research, Inc.

House-Soremekun’s statistical analysis of the factors that contributed to the success of African American businesses in Cleveland is supported by extensive research, and her policy recommendations about how entrepreneurship could be stimulated through public and private programs are thought provoking. Confronting the Odds documents life histories of business owners, compares African American male and female business owners, and offers insights into why some businesses succeed and others fail.

Published by: The Kent State University Press


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p. viii

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pp. ix-xi

While he is most often remembered for his “I Have a Dream” speech, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was no idle dreamer. He was a practical man of action, focused on changing social, political, and economic policy in America for those who had been disenfranchised, a leader who understood that change required challenging the structure of entrenched arrangements. Dr. King was a visionary. Toward...

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A Tribute to the Late Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones

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pp. xiii-xiv

I was deeply shocked and saddened to hear the news of the untimely death of my dear friend Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones on August 20, 2008. I can still remember the night that my husband, Dr. Maurice A. E. Soremekun, told me. I was serving as a public scholar and professor at Indiana University–Purdue University in Indianapolis, and he called me from Cleveland to inform me about...

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pp. xv-xviii

Confronting the Odds is not only a history lesson but a bold, in-your-face, multilevel system of strategies and tactics African Americans must engage in to begin the process of closing the income and wealth gap between blacks and whites in America. For those of you who have read my books or heard me speak, you know that Dr. Bessie House-Soremekun and I share a common vision and have reached...

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pp. xix-xxii

I would like to take this opportunity to thank a number of key individuals and organizations for their support during the preparation of this book. First, I would like to thank the Ohio Board of Regents for awarding me a two-year challenge grant of $64,000 for 1997–99 that provided the funding to perform the study. This economic support enabled me to go the step beyond to expand the parameters...

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pp. xxiii-xxviii

Since the 1970s, a growing number of academicians and public policy analysts have focused critical attention on the important role of African American businesses in economic development. Consequently, an important body of literature is now available on this subject.1 While analyzing economic development from a variety of perspectives, many writers seem to agree that economic empowerment is one...

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1 African American Entrepreneurship at the National Level

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pp. 1-12

Since the 1970s, there has been a tremendous increase in the number of African Americans who are interested in entrepreneurial activities.1 This interest includes an increasing sense of urgency on the part of African Americans to master the “art of entrepreneurship.” They want to do it well. In March 2000, I made a presentation about important business issues and trends for northeast Ohio that emanated from ...

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2 The Historical Development of the African American Community in Cleveland and the Black-Owned Business Sector, 1795–1895

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pp. 13-18

Cleveland’s central location at the mouth of the Cuyahoga River “gave the city potential both as the northern terminus of a water connection between the lake and the Ohio River and as a Great Lakes port.”1 This location also aided considerably in Cleveland’s eventual development into a major industrial and manufacturing center.2 In 1795, the land of the Western Reserve was placed on...

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3 Black Business Development in Cleveland, 1895–1960

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pp. 19-49

Black-owned funeral homes were catering mainly to a largely black clientele in the late nineteenth century, and that is still true today. The first black-owned funeral home in Cleveland, the J. A. Rogers Funeral Home, was established by James A. Rogers in 1895. It is unclear who was taking care of the funeral needs of African Americans prior to this period. The owner and director of the House of Wills...

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4 Black Economic and Political Development in the Contemporary Period, 1960–2008

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pp. 50-79

The 1960s was one of the most memorable decades of the twentieth century. Several important laws were passed that provided better opportunities for disenfranchised Americans. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, for example, gave the Office of the Attorney General the right to guarantee that the Constitution’s Fourteenth Amendment was actually being enforced. Titles II and III of the 1964 law also...

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5 The Contemporary Condition of Black-Owned Businesses in Cleveland

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pp. 80-92

In this chapter, African American entrepreneurs are compared with white entrepreneurs in order to examine their unique challenges and constraints. Data on entrepreneurs in Cleveland is also compared with national data. The findings of this study demonstrate that African American entrepreneurs continue to make notable contributions to the local and national economy. These include, among...

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6 The Continuum of Black Business Success: Why Some Firms Succeed While Others Fail

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pp. 93-104

This chapter examines the major question this study seeks to address: why do some African American businesses succeed, while others fail? The variable categories I examined were individual-owner characteristics, human capital, financial capital, social capital, economic culture, and race. Thirteen explanatory variables were examined in order to understand their effects on the economic success of African...

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7 Biographical Sketches of African American Entrepreneurs

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pp. 105-168

In this chapter, life histories of nine successful and unsuccessful African American business owners in the greater Cleveland area are presented. These entrepreneurs, whose experiences are quite diverse, include Dr. Lewis Wright and Mrs. Winnifred Wright, cofounders and owners of Doctors Pharmacy, Inc.; Rachel Y. Daniel, chief customer experience officer, Synergy International Limited, Inc., and Decision...

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8 Conclusions and Public Policy Recommendations

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pp. 169-185

This study has focused on African American entrepreneurs in Cleveland, Ohio, from 1795 to 2008. One of its major strengths has been to analyze the contributions of African American entrepreneurs at the grassroots level. It has also provided a comparative analysis of local business activity with national data. Four major questions were examined: How successful are African American entrepreneurs?...

Appendix A: Methodology for Chapter 5

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p. 187

Appendix B: Research Design, Methodology, and Operationalization of Variables for Chapter 6

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pp. 188-198

Appendix C: Additional Letters Regarding Garrett Morgan and the Lake Erie Tunnel Disaster

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pp. 199-210


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pp. 211-225

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 226-235


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pp. 236-244

E-ISBN-13: 9781612775654
E-ISBN-10: 1612775659
Print-ISBN-13: 9781606350065

Page Count: 250
Illustrations: (To view these images, please refer to print version)
Publication Year: 2009

Edition: Second Edition

OCLC Number: 794700962
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Confronting the Odds

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Subject Headings

  • African American businesspeople -- Ohio -- Cleveland -- History.
  • African Americans -- Ohio -- Cleveland -- Economic conditions.
  • Entrepreneurship -- Ohio -- Cleveland -- History.
  • African American business enterprises -- Ohio -- Cleveland -- History.
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