Liberty Nation: In the 1959 Broadway play, A Raisin in the Sun, an impoverished black family uses a substantial insurance payment to purchase a home in an affluent and white neighborhood. Perturbed by the fact that black people would move into their community, a white representative from the area offers to buy the home to prevent them from planting roots. In the end, the family resists the offer and moves in anyway.
The odious and shameful circumstances in the play, which was turned into a stupendous 1961 motion picture starring legendary thespian Sidney Poitier, was quite common for black American families for much of the 20th century. There were generally two decisions for these households to make: Combat discrimination or concede defeat.
For J. Dallas Bowser and Philip Payton Jr., there was another option: Take advantage of people’s racial prejudice and use basic economics to profit from it.
‘Negro Finds Way to Wealth’
On August 18, 1900, The New York Times published a short but fascinating article, titled “Negro Finds Way to Wealth,” that described a black man who got rich through his neighbors’ racist ways.
Bowser, a teacher, poet, and newspaper publisher, acquired homes next to white people in wealthy neighborhoods and moved in. Homeowners in the neighborhood were so outraged by his presence that they were willing to purchase his home at an above-market price just to kick him out. This resulted in Bowser earning an “exorbitant profit.”
Unfortunately, a lot of irked people started finding out about this ingenious practice and proceeded to take action. According to The Times, attorneys Joseph Rust and Ross Latchaw pressed ridiculous charges against the man before the Board of Education, causing Bowser to stand trial.
How did Bowser defend himself? From the newspaper:
“Bowser read a long paper in his own defense, standing on his right as a free-born American citizen to live where he pleases and to sell his property at whatever price he can find a purchaser willing to pay.”
Thankfully, others followed in Bowser’s footsteps – and they heeded his advice of self-improvement.
Black Capitalist Crusaders
In basic economics, there is something called the “racist premium.” This means customers will pay more and receive less for their racial prejudice and business owners will lose money for either being racist or caving into the demands of their racist customers. What’s more important? Staying in business or closing down?
Philip Payton Jr., known as “the father of Harlem,” will not be taught in schools, mentioned by MSNBC, or be commemorated by Black Lives Matter. But he was an important figure in the early 20th century. MORE HERE