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Professor Jessica Gordon Nembhard’s New Book Explores Black Cooperative Economics and Civil Rights

Collective Courage: A History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice by Professor Jessica Gordon Nembhard in the Department of Africana Studies will be published in April 2014 by The Pennsylvania State University Press. Her book makes the connection in history between the long civil rights movement and creation of alternative community-based economic institutions using “cooperative economics” to gain economic stability and independence in the face of racial and economic discrimination.

An interview with Gordon Nembhard about her book and her research on Black cooperatives was the lead story in ColorLines magazine titled, “How Co-ops Helped Produce Foot Soldiers for Civil Rights” by Carla Murphy. The full article can be read here.

This progressive, community-owned business model is based on shared ownership, democratic participation, and shared profit – the epitome of democratic economics. Gordon Nembhard explains that examples can range from housing co-ops, food co-ops, farm co-ops and worker-owned companies, to credit unions.

“There is no individual ownership. Rather, everyone is in it together and owns together. There are usually rules about how the money can be used and all members participate in regular study groups. That fosters democratic participation both in the co-op and the community,” Gordon Nembhard said.

In summarizing the research process and the book’s contribution, Gordon Nembhard explains: “This book has been over ten years in the making. I combined historical and economic analysis to add the cooperative movement to our understanding of African American history. This has resulted in a re-telling of the Black American experience through the lens of African American collective economic agency and grassroots economic organizing.”

Professor Gordon Nembhard is a political economist specializing in community economic development, wealth inequality, Black political economy, popular economic literacy, and community justice. Her research has focused on community- and asset- based economic development and democratic community economics; cooperative economics and worker ownership; racial and economic wealth inequality and wealth accumulation in communities of color; and alternative urban economic and youth educational development strategies. Her future research and policy analyses will connect community-based economic development, asset building, and economic justice strategies with community-based approaches to justice. She has written numerous articles, and is co-editor of three books and two special journal issues. Her other single authored books include: Capital Control, Financial Regulation, and Industrial Policy in South Korea and Brazil.  Westport, CT:  Praeger Publishers, 1996; and The Nation We Are Making:  A Junior History of Belize.  Belize, Central America:  Ministry of Education, 1990.

To obtain more information about Collective Courage, click here.