Barbershops owned by African-Americans have been around since the 19th century. But it's only been since the late 1880s and 1890s that Black-owned barbershops really represented a clear opportunity for entrepreneurship and a chance to serve the Black community.
When Black-owned barbershops first began to appear, they were still reflecting signs of a history of slavery by serving wealthy, white clients such as politicians and businessmen. As more Black men were born into a free society, that began to change. Gradually more barber shops began to appear which were owned by Blacks and serving Blacks in Black communities. These were some of the very first Black entrepreneurs.
The way in which Black barbershops evolved is discussed in detail in a new book entitled Cutting Along The Color Line, written by Professor T. Quincy Mills, who traces their struggle from the beginning and follows their fight for equality. Black-owned barbershops play a central role in African-American public life today, but the book clearly shows the road to get there was very challenging to say the least.
Mills, who teaches history at Vassar College, wrote the book because he wanted to chronicle the cultural history of black barber shops as businesses and civic institutions. For more details about the book, visit www.upenn.edu/pennpress/book/15150.html