A White-Collar Profession: African American Certified Public Accountants since 1921

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Board of Education decision McMillen Nonetheless, racial conflict persisted throughout most of Arkansas as it did in many parts of the nation. Social progress in racial relations in many Arkansas communities was typically accomplished by the often-uneasy alliance of African-American activists and moderate European-American leadership, composed generally of the business and professional community Finely ; Deaderick Desegregation slowly progressed not only in the schools and but also in the professions.

Black CPAs Who Paved the Way

There were few African-American lawyers practicing in Arkansas in the early s, perhaps as few as ten Kilpatrick African-Americans were not admitted into the Arkansas Bar Association until after civil rights legislation was enacted in Kilpatrick Conditions in the medical profession were similar. Because the discriminatory policies of local European-American medical societies restricted the quality of care that African-American health professionals could provide their patients and because many members of the African- American communities did not patronize doctors, many of the African-American physicians and dentists left rural Arkansas during World War II and moved to other states where economic opportunities were more promising.

Even after the passage of civil rights legislation, many of the young African-Americans who had the abilities to go into medicine did not have the desire to repeat the experiences or make the sacrifices of their elders; those who selected careers in medicine typically sought their fortunes in other states Smith Henry was obtained through face-to-face interview. He was born in a small rural Arkansas community in , the youngest of ten children and a twin. After completing his formal education, he taught business and accounting classes at Lane College in Jackson, Tennessee for one year, then served as Chief Accountant at Philander Smith College in Little Rock, Arkansas for two years.

In the fall of , he returned to his alma mater in Pine Bluff to teach accounting. We were a poor family. But it was something…I knew…when I was in college.

About the author

My department chair… I tried to change my major. So I got it, earned it, completed the requirements for certification in Thus, he describes certification as a self-set and self-realized goal. While he currently promotes certification to his accounting students as a desirable goal, …my instructors back in those days I decided to go into Business. My father, he taught school, elementary school, a long time ago. But he did.

At a Glance …

Everybody always looked up to my father as being a smart man. I know he had worked for the postal service and the railroad and he also was a contractor, a logging contractor.


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He had a crew of men and I kept the paperwork for him, computing the amount of wages they would be paid and so forth…. That was in high school. I thought so much of that opportunity for him to carry me on the job and drive the truck as far as, sometime, from Pine Bluff to Minden…on the outskirts of Shreveport. That was a long trip.


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They have a whole new way of getting that stuff out of the woods now. Tractors cut it, rip the tree, cut it, get the bark off the tree, the limbs, put it on the truck. They had straight-edged skinners, like if you had a garden hoe and straightened it out with a sharp edge. Each one would come in and tell me how many poles they had skinned, how many feet.

And I would compute their pay based on the footage of the poles. And that would be verified. Of course, my brother was working for my father, too. He ran the power saw. He would cut the trees. It just amazes me the things that are coming back to me. The men would wait to hear them fall and they would go skin the bark off of them. I have always remembered I was so impressed and pleased that my father had the confidence in me to let me do that.

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I think that it had a lot to do with my preparing to go on to college. Incidentally, out of that family of ours, I think my twin and I were the first in our family to finish college. Unlike many of the subjects from Hammond study who encountered obstacles set by the state boards and the entrenched members of the profession, Mr.

First African American Female CPA

Henry denies any experience with such institutional impediments to certification although he does acknowledge being snubbed by other test-takers when he sat for the CPA exam as the lone African-American in the group. Henry in the early s, insights were provided concerning related social obstacles. Nor was there sufficient monetary incentive to enter a profession that lacked sufficient revenue potential from a likely client base. Instead, higher education provided an impetus and a pathway to certification. Thus it appears that oral history can have implications for accountancy, particularly in broadening the options for enquiry in many fields of accounting history Matthews and Pirie and in capturing the testimony of those who have been excluded Collins and Bloom,; Carnegie and Napier, ; Hammond and Sikka, But more could be undertaken.

For example, an accounting archive of personal accounts across various socio-economic strata could be established. Information collected from these narratives will have the capacity and the potential to educate not only those in positions of power in accounting, but such histories will have the potential to offer hope and support to those who are struggling to achieve success. African labour systems: maintenance accounting and agency theory. Critical Perspectives on Accounting, 8: Carnegie G.

Napier Accounting, Auditing, and Accountability Journal, 9 3 : 7- Collins M. The role of oral history in accounting.

Accounting, Auditing, and Accountability Journal, 4 4 : Deaderick, Michael, R. The Arkansas Historical Quarterly, 69 1 : 1— Duff, A. Disability and the professional accountant: Insights from oral histories. Emery, M. Her research will help readers realize that a more diverse profession is in both their ethical and their economic interests, resulting--we can hope--in a happier tale about the twenty-first century.

A White-Collar Profession: African American Certified Public Accountants since 1921

A White-Collar Profession is must reading for anyone who wishes to understand racial progress and institutional change. It is a thoroughly engaging and well-researched chronicling of the African American experience in one of the nation's most important and prominent professions. Hammond has broken new ground in the study of race and business. Thomas, Harvard University. Permissions Information.

Subsidiary Rights Information. Media Inquiries. American Studies. African American Studies. Home Close. In , African-Americans, American Indians, Asians and Hispanics made up about 8 percent of professionals at public accounting firms, according to the most recent statistics compiled by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.

Theresa A. Carroll School of Management.

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Historically, African-American employees have had to exceed expectations in order to be given a chance at promotions early in their careers. The rigid timing of CPA firm promotions may have resulted in talented African- Americans leaving the firm, frustrated by the lack of opportunity early in their career. Hammond thus described the climate in a typical CPA firm to the oversight subcommittee of the House Committee on Financial Services during a hearing on diversity in the financial services industry.

Competence, self-confidence and the setting of expectations are the top three factors that lead to success, members reported. Establishing credibility and navigating corporate politics are challenges to success, the survey found. In response to its findings, NABA added a new component to its executive education series and has joined the Howard University Center for Accounting Education to conduct day- and week-long seminars to help accounting professionals at different stages in their careers gain the skills to take them to the next level.

Both organizations encourage minority accounting professionals to become certified public accountants early in their careers.