Black Corporate Executives

The Making and Breaking of a Black Middle Class

Book Cover

PB: $37.95
EAN: 978-1-56639-474-1
Publication: Nov 96

216 pages
5.5 x 8.25
5 tables 3 figures


Against the backdrop of increasing ambivalence in the federal government commitment to race-based employment policies, this book reveals how African-Americans first broke into professional and managerial jobs in corporations during the sixties and offers in-depth profiles of their subsequent career experiences.

Two sets of interviews with the most successful Black executives in Chicago's major corporations are used to demonstrate how the creation of the Black business elite is connected to federal government pressures and black social unrest that characterized the civil Rights movement in the sixties.

Black Corporate Executives presents, first hand, the dilemmas and contradictions that face this first wave of Black managers and reveals a subtle new employment discrimination. Corporations hired these executives in response to race-conscious political pressures and shifted them into "racialized" positions directing affirmative action programs or serving "special" markets of minority clients, customers, or urban affairs. Many executives became, as one man said, "the head Black in charge of Black people." These positions gave upper-middle-class lifestyles to those who held them but also siphoned these executives out of mainstream paths to corporate power typically leading through planning and production areas. As the political climate has become more conservative and the economy undergoes restructuring, these Black executives believe that the importance of recruiting Blacks has waned and that the jobs Blacks hold are vulnerable.

Collins-Lowry's analysis challenges arguments that justify dismantling affirmative action. She argues that it is a myth to believe that Black occupational attainments are evidence that race no longer matters in the middle-class employment arena. On the contrary, Blacks' progress and well-being are tied to politics and employment practices that are sensitive to race.

Table of Contents

Tables and Figures Preface Acknowledgments 1. The Controversy over Race and Class 2. A Politically Mediated Opportunity Structure 3. Racialized Services in the Workplace 4. Tan Territories, Urban Upheaval, and the New Black Professionals 5. Race Tracks and Mainstream Careers 6. Peacekeepers, Crisis Managers, and Conciliators 7. Blacks on the Bubble 8. A Rash of Pessimism 9. Bursting the Bubble: The Failure of Black Progress Notes References Index


In the Series

  • Labor and Social Change edited by Paula Rayman and Carmen Sirianni

    Labor and Social Change, edited by Paula Rayman and Carmen Sirianni, includes books on workplace issues like worker participation, quality of work life, shorter hours, technological change, and productivity, as well as union and community organizing and ethnographies of particular occupations.