Scope and arrangement
The Black Economic Research Center Records date from the founding of the Center in 1969 until 1980 with the bulk dating from 1970 through 1976-1977 when BERC was most active. The records document BERC's activities as well as the involvement of Robert Browne in numerous economic organizations. Although the primary function of BERC was to conduct economic research to aid black organizations and individuals, research data, notes and memoranda concerning studies BERC conducted were not included in the collection; therefore the records are stronger in its administrative functions than its programmatic aspects.
BERC records encompass administrative files consisting of minutes of meetings and correspondence of the board of directors, legal papers including contracts for work performed by BERC for various institutions, information regarding funding for BERC's operations and other financial records including investment and tax information, and files related to the staff. A chronological file consisting primarily of outgoing letters from Browne pertains to BERC's projects as well as Browne's professional activities apart from BERC. A significant component of the collection lies in the research papers and studies written by BERC economists; there is also correspondence relating to The Review of Black Political Economy. An extensive general file contains correspondence relating to BERC functions and Browne's professional activities, and a reference file covers such topics as minority businesses, education, banking, churches and black organizations.
The Black Economic Research Center records are arranged in six series:
Consists of lists of board members and their curriculum vitae, minutes of meetings and correspondence referring to day-to-day activities of the research center.
Consists principally of outgoing letters written by Browne in his official capacity as executive director of BERC as well as letters generated as a result of Browne's prominence as a black economist, inviting him to speak at conferences and to participate as a board member for a variety of organizations. Included are Browne's letters to congressmen and foreign government officials (notably Arab leaders) regarding black related issues, letters to organizations pertaining to black economic and political subjects, letters to the Emergency Land Fund in Atlanta, and requests for publications to build the BERC library. There are also memoranda to the staff, correspondence regarding articles written by BERC staff, and letters written by James Fortune, the assistant director. Other correspondence pertains to Browne's nationwide speaking engagements and participation in seminars and conferences sponsored by numerous organizations, many of which he was a member or on the board of directors. Additional letters deal with Browne's personal business. There are also lists of incoming correspondents.
Includes files primarily on organizations with a black economic or black empowerment focus. Types of organizational material incorporated in these files include memoranda, minutes, proposals, notes, press releases, and other material dealing with conferences and programs sponsored by the organizations. A number of research studies are in these files and a separate listing of these papers has been prepared. The correspondence contains information about the organizations' activities and/or BERC's or Browne's relationship to it. Browne continued to correspond with many organizations after 1976 when BERC was no longer active, as he maintained his contacts as an influential economist. His professional advice was freely offered regarding proposals, studies, and evaluations, and his opinions about contemporary economic issues were made available. Browne's arrangement scheme has been maintained.
Types of organizational material incorporated in these files include memoranda, minutes, proposals, notes, press releases, and other material dealing with conferences and programs sponsored by the organizations. The wide range of black economic issues on which BERC provided assistance encompass preservation of black owned land in the South, loan of funds to black communities, black businesses (through the Office of Minority Business Enterprise), and promotion of economic activities in Africa. Some of the many organizations and government agencies represented in the file are: Center for Community Economic Development (BERC aided this organization in its study regarding the need for equity and loan funds to further economic development in low-income communities, Browne also served as a trustee); Congressional Budget Office (Browne served on the Economic Advisors Panel); Council for the Development of Economic and Social Research in Africa (CODESRIA - promoted African research and training activities in economic and social development in Africa — BERC was a member organization); DJB Foundation (supported various African-American organizations); Harlem Commonwealth Council (Browne served as a member of the board of directors); Minority Enterprise Small Business Investment Companies (MESBIC's provide corporations chartered by a state and licensed by the Small Business Administration with the opportunity to invest capital in socially or economically disadvantaged small businesses); National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (contains many papers relating to economic issues); National Black Convention; National Business League (includes information about the Railroad Reorganization Act with contracts allocated to black businessmen to improve the nation's railroads); National Economic Association (formerly the Caucus of Black Economists, the organization supported the professional development of black economists, Browne was also on the board of directors); National Council of Churches (held conferences dealing with the Mississippi Delta, Angola and South Africa); Overseas Development Council (Browne served on the board of directors); Penn Community Services in Frogmore, South Carolina (BERC helped fund its Black Land Services which became an affiliate of the Emergency Land Fund Project); and the Southern Land Bank (consists of correspondence and proposals by several Southern organizations whose goals included black economic development).
Within the General File series there are also subject files and files related to individual black economists and to geographic areas. These include Africa (includes information on politics and rural and economic development of Angola, Rhodesia, South Africa, Uganda, and Zimbabwe); housing and blacks in the housing construction industry): inquiries (requests for information from BERC); lists (includes guests and mailing lists for black clergy in the Episcopal Church, black journals, and school superintendents); Parren Mitchell (U.S. Representative from Maryland, who was instrumental in influencing the House Committee on Small Business to create a subcommittee which had authority to deal with the problems of minority businesses and with legislation designed to aid minority businessmen); Jesse Morris (BERC staff member at the Southern Land and Recreational Developers in Jackson, Mississippi); Mound Bayou, Mississippi (largest all-black town in the United States, BERC provided technical assistance to maintain a hospital and factory and funded a land-saving project); and South Carolina Sea Islands, especially John's Island (includes proposals to improve economic conditions).