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The fate of black economic development in Columbia, Missouri, represents a microcosm of national trends. “For a variety of social and economic reasons,” Weems observes, “we literally see black businesses disappearing from the landscape of America.” Looking at the economic dimension of desegregation reveals a bitter irony that has animated much of Weems’ work. As a result of so-called desegregation, “on one level, we see white companies making great inroads among the African-American consumers,” he explains. “But we don’t see black companies being able to make similar inroads in the mainstream community.” In economic terms, this one-way situation is not true desegregation.
By examining the economic results of desegregation in the insurance industry, Weems began to notice how corporate America profited as well from the Civil Rights Movement. The result was his second book, Desegregating the Dollar: African American Consumerism in the Twentieth Century (1998)—a comprehensive look at the African-American community as a consumer base in the U.S.