Purpose – This paper aims to trace the historical roots of African American management by examining managerial practices and experiences described in the letters of Benjamin Thornton Montgomery, a former slave who eventually became manager and, ultimately, owner of the Hurricane plantation. Design/methodology/approach – The method used is the historical archival method of analysis, primarily the examination of a series of letters written by Montgomery during the 1865‐1870 time periods. These letters, which document the foundation and emergence of African American management during the Emancipation age, are for the first time presented as a source of management history. Findings – Contrary to traditional thoughts of the insignificance of the plantation era to the history of management, the analysis indicates that Montgomery's management practices were quite sophisticated as they incorporated classical management principles of planning, delegation, leadership, and control. Practical implications – This paper provides insights concerning the historical roots of management practices during the African American Emancipation period which could provide contemporary managers with a more realistic foundation of management practice. Originality/value – The principal contribution of this investigation is the historical awareness of the documented roots of African American management represented by Montgomery's competence and perseverance to manage effectively while withstanding impeding racial attacks.
Journal of Management History – Emerald Publishing
Published: Jan 6, 2012
Keywords: African American management; Slavery; Plantation; Archival; Modern history; Management activities