On October 30, 2017 Dr. Robert E. Weems, Jr. will deliver a talk titled, “The Evolution of the Trillion Dollar African American Consumer Market,” as part of the Sixth Annual Humanities Center Annual Distinguished Lecture Series. The lecture will take place at 3:30p.m. in the Lindsay Young Auditorium in Hodges Library. A century ago, African Americans were not a viable consumer market due to a variety of social, economic, political, and demographic circumstances. As the 20th century progressed, African Americans realized their growing power as consumers and attracted the attention of a variety of American corporations. Today, while annual African American consumer spending has passed the trillion-dollar mark, black consumption patterns represent spending weakness, rather than spending power.
Weems has been the Willard W. Garvey Distinguished Professor of Business History at Wichita State University since fall 2011. Before coming to WSU, he taught at the University of Missouri-Columbia and the University of Iowa. He received his Ph.D. in History from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. During his career, Weems has published and spoken widely in the areas of African American business and economic history. His publications include three books in the realm of African American business history: Black Business in the Black Metropolis: The Chicago Metropolitan Assurance Company, 1925-1985 (1996); Desegregating the Dollar: African American Consumerism in the Twentieth Century (1998); and Business in Black and White: American Presidents and Black Entrepreneurs in the Twentieth Century (2009). He is also the co-editor of the reference book, The African American Experience: An Historiographical and Bibliographical Guide. His most recent project includes the co-edited book, Building The Black Metropolis: African American Entrepreneurship in Chicago (2017), published by the University of Illinois Press.