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Social enterprise in Antebellum America: the case of Nashoba (1824-1829)

Patrick J. Murphy (Department of Management and Entrepreneurship, DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois, USA)
Jack Smothers (Department of Management and Information Sciences, University of Southern Indiana, Evansville, Indiana, USA)
Milorad M. Novicevic (Department of Management, University of Mississippi, Oxford, Mississippi, USA)
John H. Humphreys (Department of Management, Texas A&M University – Commerce, Commerce, Texas, USA)
Foster B. Roberts (Department of Management and Marketing, Southeast Missouri State University, Cape Girardeau, Missouri, USA)
Artem Kornetskyy (Department of Business Economics, University of Customs and Finance, Dnipro, Ukraine)

Journal of Management History

ISSN: 1751-1348

Article publication date: 8 January 2018




This paper examines the case of Nashoba, a Tennessee-based social enterprise founded in 1824 by Scottish immigrant Frances Wright. The Nashoba venture intended to diminish the institution of slavery in the USA through entrepreneurial activity over its five years of operation.


This study methodology entailed mining primary source data from Wright’s letters; communications with her cofounders and contemporaries; and documentations of enterprise operations. The authors examined these data using social enterprise theory with a focus on personal identity and time-laden empirical aspects not captured by traditional methodologies.


The social enterprise concept of a single, self-sustaining model generating more than one denomination of value in a blended form has a deeper history than the literature acknowledges. As an entrepreneur, Wright made strategic decisions in a context of supply-side and demand-side threats to the venture. The social enterprise engaged injustice by going beyond market and state contexts to generate impact in the realms of institutions and non-excludable public goods.

Research limitations/implications

This study generates two formal implications for the development of new research questions in social enterprise studies. The first implication addresses the relation between social entrepreneurs and their constituencies. The second implication pertains to the effects of macro-level education, awareness and politics on social enterprise performance and impact. The implications herald new insights in social enterprise, such as the limits of moral conviction and the importance of social disruption.


This paper broadens the current understanding of how social enterprises redress unjust and unethical institutions. It also contributes new insights into social enterprise launch and growth based on shared values within communities and coordinated strategic intentions across communities.



This research was supported by the special collections of the library of the University of Mississippi and by a US Fulbright scholarship awarded to Artem Kornetskyy.


Murphy, P.J., Smothers, J., Novicevic, M.M., Humphreys, J.H., Roberts, F.B. and Kornetskyy, A. (2018), "Social enterprise in Antebellum America: the case of Nashoba (1824-1829)", Journal of Management History, Vol. 24 No. 1, pp. 99-119.



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