Business and Commerce

Black-Owned Businesses

What is the historical role of the barbershop in the African-American community?

African Americans dominated the barbering business in the antebellum South and some enjoyed economic advantages. For example, in the 1830s William Tiler Johnson (1809–1851), who became known as the “Barber of Natchez,” was born a slave and went on to become a popular barber in white America. He owned three barbershops and a bathhouse in Natchez, frequently hiring slaves to work as apprentices in his businesses. Until the late nineteenth century, black barbershops with large white clientele fared well. Barbershops have long been an important business as well as a center of cultural exchange in the African-American community. Some call them a repository of African-American folk culture and a place where various strata of the black community can come together. The 2002 comedy film Barbershop highlighted the black barbering business and its role in the community.


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