Building New South Prosperity
Department of History
Ph.D., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Project: Building New South Prosperity: John Hervey Wheeler, Black Banking, and the Economic Struggle for Civil Rights
will argue that there is no justice without economic opportunity. By combining black business and civil rights history, the book project reexamines the contributions black businesspeople such as banker and civil rights lawyer John Hervey Wheeler made to the civil rights movement. As one of the nation's savviest behind-the-scenes black power brokers, Wheeler worked to prioritize racial and economic equality for black people in the South. He led in so many arenas, which meant he brought the full weight of his institutional and organizational affiliations—an expansive network of resources—to bear in all of his civil rights activism. As a "black business activist," Wheeler offered a bold vision of regional prosperity, which could only be achieved if blacks obtained full citizenship rights without delay. This economic vision of "New South Prosperity," centered on his ultimate concern for the economic welfare of the South after WWII. Wheeler believed the movement to be as much about the survival and expansion of black enterprise as much as anything else. As a banker, this was also important because of the potential it had on black businesses being able to compete and "reenter the larger marketplace."