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Vivien's Baltimore: Enterprise and Self-Sufficiency

  Coming to Baltimore | Arts & Culture | Church and Community Life
  Wartime Economy | Enterprise and Self-Sufficiency | Activism


Black Baltimore's economy wasn't fueled solely by the war, by any means. African American businesses grew from within, nurtured from the roots by fraternal societies and social organizations.

Groups like the black Elks, the Prince Hall Masons, and the Social Arch Club formed important networks for growing enterprises during the segregated era. Future Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall's family managed a store on the West side for many years.

Now it was a joy to be a member of the Masonic organization because you're in company with a number of persons who are idealistic, whose principals are lofty and all of that. So it is pleasure being around and a part of them. It also gives you the security of knowing that if you're ever in a jam you got persons who you can call on, not only for yourself but to support your family, whatever the need may be.
-- Sam Daniels, Grandmaster Emeritus, Prince Hall Masons, on the benefits of being a Mason

Small businesses here spawned a culture of vending that went out to residents. Baltimore's Arabbers -- men who sold goods from horse-drawn wagons -- continued a tradition begun in the 19th century. Arabbers used unique musical calls to attract customers.

My grandmother was the first black female entrepreneur in Lafayette Market. Now it goes way, way back beyond my comprehension, but the story that was told to me is that my grandmother, who had seven children, came to Baltimore, because her husband died and there was really no place for them on the farm. It was in the ingenuity of that woman, and being strong, and knowing she had to provide for that family that I think she could see the idea to open a stall in the market. And I think it was very wise and smart on her part because that was one place where she knew that she could make money. She was an itinerant preacher, and she preached in various holy and sanctified churches in the city but there certainly wasn't an income for her. So when she opened that stall, she opened it and sold produce. And she knew that she had contacts, having come from Carroll County, the persons that could supply that, for her to sell. And she opened her stall, she made a living for her family. And she did that until she got old and sick and could no longer work. And by that time her children were grown.
-- Dorothy Daugherty on her family's connection to the Layfayette Market



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