John Hervey Wheeler, Black Banking, and the Economic Struggle for Civil Rights

John Hervey Wheeler, Black Banking, and the Economic Struggle for Civil Rights

by Brandon K. Winford


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John Hervey Wheeler (1908—1978) was one of the civil rights movement's most influential leaders. In articulating a bold vision of regional prosperity grounded in full citizenship and economic power for African Americans, this banker, lawyer, and visionary would play a key role in the fight for racial and economic equality throughout North Carolina.

Utilizing previously unexamined sources from the John Hervey Wheeler Collection at the Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library, this biography explores the black freedom struggle through the life of North Carolina's most influential black power broker. After graduating from Morehouse College, Wheeler returned to Durham and began a decades-long career at Mechanics and Farmers (M&F) Bank. He started as a teller and rose to become bank president in 1952. In 1961, President Kennedy appointed Wheeler to the President's Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity, a position in which he championed equal rights for African Americans and worked with Vice President Johnson to draft civil rights legislation. One of the first blacks to attain a high position in the state's Democratic Party, Wheeler became the state party's treasurer in 1968, and then its financial director.

Wheeler urged North Carolina's white financial advisors to steer the region toward the end of Jim Crow segregation for economic reasons. Straddling the line between confrontation and negotiation, Wheeler pushed for increased economic opportunity for African Americans while reminding the white South that its future was linked to the plight of black southerners.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780813178257
Publisher: University Press of Kentucky
Publication date: 12/09/2019
Series: Civil Rights and the Struggle for Black Equality in the Twentieth Century
Pages: 354
Sales rank: 496,344
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Brandon K. Winford is assistant professor of history at the University of Tennessee. He is a historian of the late-nineteenth and twentieth-century United States and African American history with areas of specialization in civil rights and black business history.

Table of Contents

From Slavery to Middle-Class Respectability
Black Business Activism in the Great Depression
The Battle for Educationl Equality in the Postwar New South
Direct Action and the Search for 'Freedom of Movement'
Equal Employment, Voting Rights, and Public Policy at the National Level
Urban Renewal and the Prospects of a Free and Open Society

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"This informative work chronicles the life of one of the unsung titans of the civil rights period and casts new light on the dynamic role this banker, activist, and humanitarian played in the middle of the twentieth century. A much-needed and insightful contribution to the historiography of the black freedom struggle, both in North Carolina and the region, this volume illuminates the still-underanalyzed relationship between black economic institutions, larger mainstream economic structures, and the evolution of black freedom in the nation." — Charles W. McKinney Jr., co-editor of An Unseen Light: Black Struggles for Freedom in Memphis, Tennessee

"Brandon K. Winford's impressive biography brilliantly places banker and attorney John Hervey Wheeler at the center of the long black freedom struggle in North Carolina. Meticulously researched, this outstanding work of scholarship makes a valuable contribution to our understanding of the history of black business and the civil rights movement and should be required reading for students of both subjects." — Jerry Gershenhorn, author of Louis Austin and the Carolina Times : A Life in the Long Black Freedom Struggle

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