Co-operatives have played an important role in forwarding the rights and prospects of Black communities throughout history. Co-operatives have also, among all groups and people in every country, facilitated economic development, stabilisation, and independence, often for those who have been the most economically marginalised. 

In the US, African Americans have a long but hidden history of co-operative economic thought and practice, where self-help efforts – mutual aid societies, maroons, communal societies, for example – have provided a chance to design and manage needed services in culturally, racially, and geographically sensitive ways. The African American cooperative experience mirrors and reflects efforts of subaltern groups around the world who use solidarity economics and collective ownership to mitigate the effects of discrimination and to resist dehumanising economic conditions.

This three-day residential will explore African American co-operative history, reconstructing African American history and civil rights activity through retelling the stories of the Black co-operative movement for economic justice. 

Jessica Gordon-Nembhard will make connections to the efforts of Black-led groups in the UK and Europe, looking at the similarities in conditions and strategies.

Collective Courage: Co-operatives and the Black Economy

  • Overview of the history of the African American co-operative movement and how it coincided with and complemented the long civil rights movement for human rights and racial justice.
  • Examples of a variety of African American co-operatives.
  • The importance of education in the African American cooperative movement.
  • Discussion of the opportunities and challenges offered by co-operative ownership for African Americans and consider the circumstances under which cooperative ownership has been beneficial to African American communities, Black women and/or Black youth; and Blacks in the UK and Europe. Roles of Black women and Black youth, and Black organisations, in the co-operative movement – and in the success of the co-operatives.
  • Lessons learned from the African American cooperative experience for Black and subaltern communities today, including the barriers, challenges, and accomplishments. Analyze the barriers and challenges to cooperative ownership among African Americans, as well as Blacks in the UK;  and to recognize the role played by unfair competition, racism and white supremacist terrorism in undermining Black cooperatives and solidarity movements.
  • New horizons: next stages of the Black cooperative movement in the US, UK and Europe.

Author of Collective Courage: A History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice and 2016 inductee into the U.S. Cooperative Hall of Fame, Jessica Gordon-Nembhard, Ph.D., is Professor of Community Justice and Social Economic Development, Chair of the Department of Africana Studies, and Director of the McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program at John Jay College, City University of NY. She is also an affiliate scholar with the Centre for the Study of Co-operatives (University of Saskatchewan, Canada), and the 2017 recipient of the CASC Merit Award for exemplary contributions to the field of co-operative studies from the Canadian Association for Studies in Co-operation. Dr. Gordon-Nembhard is a political economist specializing in community economics, Black Political Economy, and popular economic literacy. Her research and numerous publications explore problematics and alternative solutions in cooperative economic development and worker ownership, community economic development, racial wealth inequality, credit unions and community-based asset building, and community-based approaches to justice.

  • Community activists looking to include economic alternatives and develop solidarity economies to address community challenges and develop genuine, sustainable community wellbeing.
  • Co-op developers or urban planners/community developers, and small business developers involved in or ready to start incubating cooperatives, especially worker cooperatives.
  • Young people and women challenged by the lack of economic models and opportunities that support and develop their leadership and well-being, as well as the well-being of their communities.

Author of Collective Courage: A History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice and 2016 inductee into the U.S. Cooperative Hall of Fame, Jessica Gordon-Nembhard, Ph.D., is Professor of Community Justice and Social Economic Development, Chair of the Department of Africana Studies, and Director of the McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program at John Jay College, City University of NY. She is also an affiliate scholar with the Centre for the Study of Co-operatives (University of Saskatchewan, Canada), and the 2017 recipient of the CASC Merit Award for exemplary contributions to the field of co-operative studies from the Canadian Association for Studies in Co-operation. Dr. Gordon-Nembhard is a political economist specializing in community economics, Black Political Economy, and popular economic literacy. Her research and numerous publications explore problematics and alternative solutions in cooperative economic development and worker ownership, community economic development, racial wealth inequality, credit unions and community-based asset building, and community-based approaches to justice.

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