Jonathan Bean is professor of history at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. He is the author of Beyond the Broker State: Federal Policies Toward Small Business, 1936-1961 and Big Government and Affirmative Action: The Scandalous History of the Small Business Administration.
As racial minorities in their political party and as political minorities within their community, black Republicans occupied an irreconcilable position—they were shunned by African American communities and subordinated by the GOP. In response, black Republicans vocally, and at times viciously, critiqued members of their race and party, in an effort to shape the attitudes and public images of black citizens and the GOP. And yet, there was also a measure of irony to black Republicans' "loneliness": at various points, factions of the Republican Party, such as the Nixon administration, instituted some of the policies and programs offered by black party members. What's more, black Republican initiatives, such as the fair housing legislation of senator Edward Brooke, sometimes garnered support from outside the Republican Party, especially among the black press, Democratic officials, and constituents of all races. Moving beyond traditional liberalism and conservatism, black Republicans sought to address African American racial experiences in a distinctly Republican way.
The Loneliness of the Black Republican provides a new understanding of the interaction between African Americans and the Republican Party, and the seemingly incongruous intersection of civil rights and American conservatism.
Despite the scandals and the policy failures, the SBA thrives and small business remains a sacred cow in American politics. Part of this sacredness comes from the agency's longstanding record of pioneering affirmative action. Jonathan Bean reveals that even before the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the SBA promoted African American businesses, encouraged the hiring of minorities, and monitored the employment practices of loan recipients. Under Nixon, the agency expanded racial preferences. During the Reagan administration, politicians wrapped themselves in the mantle of minority enterprise even as they denounced quotas elsewhere.
Created by Congress in 1953, the SBA does not conform to traditional interpretations of interest-group democracy. Even though the public -- and Congress -- favors small enterprise, there has never been a unified group of small business owners requesting the government's help. Indeed, the SBA often has failed to address the real problems of "Mom and Pop" shop owners, fueling the ongoing debate about the agency's viability.