African American Family Business in Paterson, New Jersey

  • Migration North after World War II

    According to Louis McDowell — preacher, distributor of free food to those in need, and owner of McDowell's Barber Shop, on River Street — Paterson was "itself" between the 1930s and the 1950s. Then, it was "a beautiful little city," one that welcomed his family fresh from their farm in Mississippi. With his older sister leading the charge, they came every year, two at ...

  • Building a Life of Opportunity in Paterson

    As young adults, African-American workers found opportunities as laborers in factories, small businesses, and private homes throughout the city. Easter Benson came to Paterson on a Sunday, and by Monday was working at Spotless Laundry. After seven years, she went to work at a coat factory, where she pressed seams and linings. For the next twenty years, she worked at different coat factories and ...

  • McDowell's Barber Shop

    As one of the few businesses African Americans could own in the South, barber shops have long played a central role in black communities. The barber, a public figure with professional skills for personal service, is often a highly respected individual with a repertoire of standard and up-to-the-minute hairstyles that express a community's prevailing tonsorial aesthetics. The barber shop, with its informal atmosphere and ...

  • E & A Soul Food Restaurant

    At Easter Benson's E & A Soul Food Restaurant, at the corner of Governor and Straight Streets, in the shadow of the Erie Railroad overpass, soul food, as she describes it, is homemade and highly- seasoned. It includes such items as biscuits, cornbread, macaroni and cheese, sweet potato pie, fresh vegetables (pinto and lima beans, field peas, cabbage, collard greens, string beans, candied yams), ...

  • Bragg Funeral Home

    In Carnie Bragg Jr.'s high school yearbook, his simple aspiration is inscribed: "To be a mortician." Bragg, the second-generation director of the most prominent black-owned funeral home in Paterson, grew-up in the family business, which was located a floor below the family dwelling. His father, a former New York City garbage collector, started the business in Passaic, New Jersey, in 1937, and moved it ...

  • Jiggetts Transportation

    Jiggetts Transportation, like Bragg Funeral Home, started in a family residence. It was located in George and Martha's rented house on Twelfth Avenue. There were no two-way radios in taxis then, so a speaker was mounted on the Jiggettses' front porch, and when George would drive up and blow the horn, Martha would announce the next customer's address over the sound system. "Every hour ...

  • Sweet Potato Pie Company

    The same can be said of Sweet Potato Pie, Incorporated, a business, located at 140 Auburn Street, that has twenty-eight employees producing more than ten thousand pies a day. In 1983, when he started the business in his home, Edgar Ramsey was working full time as a manager with the Xerox Corporation. In order to make a go of the pie business, he and ...