Shennette Garrett-Scott

University of Mississippi
"Invincible Daughters of Commerce: The Independent Order of St. Luke and Black Women in Finance, 1900-1940s"

Shennette Garrett-Scott is a historian of gender, race, and business who focuses on black women in insurance and banking. She is using her fellowship year at the Davis Center to complete her manuscript, Invincible Daughters of Commerce: The Independent Order of St Luke and Black Women in Finance, 1900-1940s, which tells the story of the Independent Order of St. Luke (IOSL), a secret society started by a free woman of color before the Civil War. The IOSL opened a bank in 1903 that operated as the longest operating, black-controlled bank until its sale in 2011. Invincible Daughters of Commerce places race, gender, and class formation at the center of twentieth-century U.S. finance. It is the first history of the insurance and banking industries that focuses on black women, tracing how they saved, lent, and invested from the Civil War to the Civil Rights era. The book stresses how U.S. financial markets and institutions shaped and were shaped by racial and gendered notions of risk and citizenship. Financial institutions controlled by black women force a reconsideration of political power and civic virtue, economic values and practices, and cultural meanings of wealth, prosperity, and opportunity. In looking at the underexplored roles of black women in finance and credit, Invincible Daughters of Commerce addresses critical questions about the extent to which blacks in general and black women in particular acted as agents in the construction of risk and economic citizenship in the U.S. political economy.

She is an Assistant Professor of History and African American Studies at the University of Mississippi. Her courses taught include Black Women’s Enterprise and Activism in the Long Freedom Struggle and a seminar on Oprah Winfrey. Her publications include “‘To Do a Work that Would Be Very Far Reaching’: Minnie Geddings Cox, the Mississippi Life Insurance Company, and the Challenges of Black Women’s Business Leadership in the Early Twentieth-Century United States,” Enterprise and Society 17, No. 3 (September, 2016): 473–514, DOI: 10.1017/eso.2015.66, and “‘The Hope of the South’: The New Century Cotton Mill of Dallas, Texas, and the Business of Race in the New South, 1902–1907,” Southwestern Historical Quarterly 116, No. 2 (October, 2012): 138–166, DOI: 10.1353/swh.2012.0100, which won the Texas State Historical Association’s Carroll Award for Best Article. She received her Ph.D. in U.S. History from the University of Texas at Austin in 2011.