How Du Bois’ “The Negro in Business” Became the Foundation for Clark Atlanta’s University’s Business School

By Kamille D. Whittaker |  kwhittaker@atlantatribune.com

“Black Folk Soul Reconstructor. Pan African Mind Warrior. Read him. Then read him again. The Best We Have. Happy 149th Birthday .” — Dr. Carr

In 1899, Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois, who composed his most influential works in the 23 years he spent as a professor at then Atlanta University, wrote The Negro in Business based on a commissioned study for the annual Atlanta Conference. “What he was doing then, was trying to enumerate African American-owned businesses in the United States at the time,” explains Dr. Charles Moses, former dean of Clark Atlanta University’s School of Business Administration and current dean of Austin Peay State University’s College of Business. “He simply documented and created an index, of sorts, for blacksmiths, tanners, farmers, etc. The numbers were not robust, and he wasn’t really postulating anything at the time; but what he was trying to do was just figure out what was out there.”

Fast forward to the present, the thesis seems unchanged: “Coming out of a recession which hit the African-American community particularly hard, we’re still asking where is our middle class, where is our entrepreneurial class, how can we revive them, what are our needs, how can we formulate and gain access to capital, how do we create jobs and economic activity in our communities? These are questions that Du Bois began to wrestle with [over] 114 years ago.”

The answers, or at least the connection to the part of Du Bois’ intellectual genealogy that focused on economics and enterprise, may be in the Clark Atlanta University’s School of Business Administration — one of the top 10 producers of African-American business professionals in the nation. Throughout its rich history, Clark Atlanta University has awarded more than 10,000 baccalaureates in business administration and over 3,000 MBAs. Students are drawn from over 40 states and 30 countries to become managers, entrepreneurs, educators and leaders by receiving a quality educational experience grounded in sound, ethical principles.

Broadly, Dr. Moses envisioned Clark Atlanta University School of Business Administration playing a role in terms of helping to formulate information and data, “Or being a clearinghouse for information and data — about our business community, developing business models, educating business leaders both in corporate America and entrepreneurial America and world. Our ‘product’ is ideas, we create intellectual capital.”

Narrowly, the school is developing and rolling out an undergraduate concentration in financial planning, which would devise a course load that would prepare a student to receive CFP certification upon graduating. “This addresses the demands of the growing financial services industry. We’re also working on developing a sports and entertainment management MBA. Right now, we are going through a process of trying to decide how best to go online. So, we are continuing to build our relationships here and globally – such as the ones we have currently with China and Jamaica — in order to better serve our students in a long-term investment. What seems to work at Clark Atlanta University is when faculty has a passion for something and that translates to the students. So, with Du Bois, in mind, we are ideally situated by our history but also from our results that we’ve generated over the years; and what results, is a global academic experience that is very enriching, very deep and very probing.” AT

Originally published in the December 2013 issue of Atlanta Tribune.


Black Folk Soul Reconstructor. Pan African Mind Warrior. Read him. Then read him again. The Best We Have. Happy 149th Birthday .

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