The National Business League

Founded by Dr. Booker T. Washington – August 23, 1900

The Legacy

Welcome to the National Business League (NBL), a distinguished organization with a legacy deeply rooted in the remarkable life and teachings of Booker T. Washington. As one of America’s most influential figures, Booker T. Washington championed economic freedom, liberation, and equality for Black individuals and businesses. The establishment of the National Negro Business League (NNBL) in 1900 stands as a testament to his visionary leadership. 

Under Booker T. Washington’s guidance, the NNBL emerged in Boston, Massachusetts, fueled by the support and endorsement of notable individuals including Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, George W. Campbell, Collis P. Huntington, George Foster Peabody, Daniel C. Smith, John Wanamaker, Henry H. Rogers, James F.B. Marshall, and William H. Baldwin Jr. These influential figures recognized the importance of Booker T. Washington’s Black economic empowerment agenda and liberation platform. 

The NNBL swiftly gained traction, expanding its influence and establishing 320 chapters across the United States by 1905. By 1915, the league had grown to over 600 chapters in 34 states. Its mission was clear: to promote the commercial and financial development of Black businesses. 

The NNBL served as a powerful platform for Black entrepreneurs from various fields including small-business owners, doctors, farmers, professionals, craftsmen, and more. While its primary focus was on economic development, the league also recognized the importance of civil rights and actively advocated for social improvement. Notably, the Nashville chapter organized a boycott in 1905 to protest segregation in local transit, exemplifying the league’s commitment to equality. 

Booker T. Washington firmly believed that economic progress would serve as a catalyst for broader societal change and improvement. He emphasized the need for African Americans to establish a strong economic network that would empower and advance the community. In pursuit of this vision, the NNBL established the National Negro Business Service, providing valuable assistance to Black business owners in addressing merchandising and advertising challenges. The league also encouraged national advertisers to utilize Negro publications to effectively reach the influential and economically powerful Black demographic. 

Following Booker T. Washington’s passing in 1915, the NNBL continued its vital work under the leadership of his successor Col. J.C. Napier the banker and Tuskegee’s, Robert Russa Moton. The organization furthered its impact by fostering affiliations with professional organizations such as the National Negro Bankers Association, the National Negro Press Association, and the National Negro Bar Association, among others. These alliances strengthened the collective voice and influence of Black business owners and professionals. 

In 1966, the NNBL underwent a significant transformation and was renamed the National Business League. This change marked a new era for the organization, which has remained active and impactful to this day. The NBL has continuously evolved, establishing city Business League and Student Business League chapters throughout all 50 states, nurturing local connections, and fostering economic development within Black communities. 

Today, the National Business League stands as a dynamic force, passionately advocating for the interests of over 3.2 million Black American businesses. These enterprises contribute an astonishing $128 billion to the U.S. economy and provide 1.18 million jobs. With its national headquarters now located in Tuskegee, AL, the NBL serves as a global catalyst for the economic development, empowerment, and liberative freedom of Black businesses. The league also maintains regional offices in Atlanta, GA, Detroit, MI, Los Angeles, CA, Washington, D.C., and an international office in Cape Town, South Africa. 

Approaching 125 years of service, the NBL proudly partners with Fortune 500 companies and public and private sector organizations worldwide to empower Black businesses and support the Black economic agenda. In 2022, the National Business League, National Black Chamber of Commerce, and World Conference of Mayors formed the National Alliance for Black Business, uniting efforts to advance the Black business agenda in America and throughout the Pan-African diaspora. 

Join the National Business League today and become part of a historic legacy that is committed to empowering your business and fostering Black economic prosperity. Together, we can build a future where entrepreneurial success and equality go hand in hand.