31st President. Typed letter signed “Herbert Hoover” AS PRESIDENT, one page, 7 x 9, White House letterhead, June 20, 1931. Letter to Albon L. Hosley as the Secretary of The National Negro Business League, in full:
I should like to extend to the members of the National Negro Business League my greetings and good wishes for the success of its annual convention in New York, June 21st to 24th. Courage and confidence on the part of the business enterprises of our country are a major factor in readjustment to current economic conditions. I hope that the deliberations of your League may contribute their part toward this result.
In very good condition, with some age toning and three horizontal folds.
Albon Hosley believed that slavery deprived blacks of the opportunity to learn the art of business. He started his career at the Tuskegee Institute in 1914. He would later work with the Colored Merchants’ Association and the National Negro Business League.
Black educator Booker T. Washington (1856-1915), founder and, from 1881 until his death in 1915, first principal of Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, also founded the National Negro Business League, which for many years was housed at Tuskegee. Washington believed that solutions to the problem of racial discrimination were primarily economic, and that bringing African Americans into the middle class was the key. In 1900, he established the League “to promote the commercial and financial development of the Negro,” and headed it until his death.
Annual meetings of the National Negro Business League included representatives of both the black and white races. One year, in Booker T. Washington’s time, the Philadelphia department store magnate John Wanamaker was a speaker. The League also invited Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover to address the 1924 convention in Chicago; although Hoover does not seem to have accepted, an article by Albon L. Holsey in the October 1926 issue of Opportunity indicates that a letter he wrote to Dr. Robert Moton offering suggestions about the League’s projected plan of work was read aloud at the 1926 convention in Cleveland.
1931 was a challenging year throughout the United States. Just under 2 years into the Great Depression, unemployment skyrocketed, food was in short supply and the people of the country were starting to feel the worst effects of the Great Depression. In this letter, President Hoover, who was considered racist by many of his black contemporaries, reaches out to the black business community in the hopes of raising their spirits during a very tumultuous time in American history.