MTSU’s Political Economy Research Institute helps launch academic conference to advance research on race, discrimination

Sep 30, 2022 at 02:04 pm by WGNS News

Harold A. Black, professor emeritus of finance at the University of Tennessee (MTSU photo by Brian Delaney)

Sponsored in part by the Political Economy Research Institute at Middle Tennessee State University, the first Dr. Harold A. Black Academic Conference took place at the historic Read House in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in early September.

The conference showcased papers from 10 authors and five co-authors that directly examined, extended or built on Black’s scholarship, made possible by a PERI partnership with the Probasco Distinguished Chair of Free Enterprise at the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga, and the Haslam College of Business at UT Knoxville.


Black’s research focuses primarily on discrimination in the financial industry. A paper he co-authored in 1978 was one of the first to quantify bias in lending decisions. His empirical research sheds light on how some laws meant to aid minorities may harm them.

Building on Professor Black’s legacy - MTSU economic professor and PERI Director Daniel J. Smith and UTC’s Claudia Williamson Kramer often collaborate to produce educational programming to explore the impact that policies and institutions have on our well-being.

Organizing and hosting the Dr. Harold A. Black Academic Conference became an ideal fit for both scholars to advance the research and public discourse on Black’s groundbreaking work.

The PERI at MTSU and the Probasco Chair at UTC share a common mission to further the understanding of free market systems and the drivers of economic growth. Both organizations are led by economics professors dedicated to publishing high-quality research with a focus on teaching sound economic principles.

“We were very thrilled to have the opportunity to work with my colleague Dr. Williamson Kramer and our education partners to help organize this conference, not only to celebrate Dr. Black’s accomplishments, but to advance his scholarship with new literature on race and discrimination. We organized a great collection of public choice scholars, and we look forward to seeing this culminate in a special edition of Public Choice,” said Smith.

Two MTSU Ph.D. economics students, Nicholas Reinarts and Labanyalata Roy, were selected to attend and presented their papers at the conference.

Other conference attendees included:

  • J. Brandon Bolen, assistant professor of economics at Mississippi College
  • James Dean, assistant professor of economics at North Dakota State University
  • M. Scott King, Probasco post-doctoral research fellow at the Gary W. Rollins
    College of Business at the University of Tennessee, Chattanooga
  • Claudia Williamson Kramer, Probasco Distinguished Chair of Free Enterprise and Professor of Economics at the UTC
  • Ken Cyree, dean of the School of Business Administration; and professor of finance at the University of Mississippi
  • Vitor Melo, Ph.D. candidate in economics at Clemson University
  • Craig J. Richardson, founding director of the Center for the Study of Economic Mobility at Winston-Salem State University
  • Edward Stringham, Shelby Cullom Davis Professor of American Business and Economic Enterprise at Trinity College

Groundbreaking research in banking and finance - Black, a trailblazer in all aspects of his life, integrated the University of Georgia’s freshman class in 1962 and was the first African American student to enroll at the UGA Terry College of Business.

Black retired as professor emeritus of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville after 24 years of service as the James F. Smith Jr. Professor of Finance. A native of Atlanta, he earned his master’s and doctoral degrees from the Ohio State University.

“His research was the first to attempt to quantify and demonstrate racial biases in mortgage lending decisions,” Williamson Kramer said. “The legacy of his scholarship shows that increasing competition is often a driving force behind reducing the probability of lending bias and that freer markets allow for more, not fewer, opportunities for all, including minorities.”

Black’s articles have been published in numerous leading journals, and his many honors include being appointed by President Jimmy Carter to serve on the first National Credit Union Administration Board; being a visiting scholar at both the Federal Reserve and the Congressional Budget Office; and serving as chairman of the Nashville branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.

After the Harold Black Academic Conference, authors are revising their work with input received during the seminars and will be submitted for consideration for publication in a special edition of the premier academic journal Public Choice.

Smith and Ramon DeGennaro, emeritus professor in Banking and Finance in the Haslam College of Business at the University of Tennessee, serve as guest editors of the special issue.

“Dr. Black’s empirical research provides some of the earliest work to examine the effects of discrimination in the financial industry. As we find time and time again, Dr. Black’s findings uncover how regulations intended to help minority groups ended up harming them.  This is the level of research we felt is necessary to enhance for the betterment of society,” Smith said.

Local sponsors who helped support this event included MTSU’s Jennings A. Jones College of Business, Albert Gore Research Center, University Honors College, Weatherford Chair of Finance, and the Department of Economics and Finance.

About the PERI - The Political Economy Research Institute is a joint venture between MTSU’s Jones College of Business and the University Honors College. Under the direction of Dr. Daniel J. Smith, the PERI engages students in research to further their understanding of how business and economic principles impact society. Upcoming public events hosted by the PERI include a lecture, “Debating Democracy,” on Oct. 20 at MTSU featuring author and Georgetown University professor Jason Brennan. To learn more about the PERI or upcoming events, visit or email

Additional WGNS News Headlines: 

Sections: News