The first employment services for African Americans seeking entry into the local workforce were delivered out of barbershops and beauty parlors. Most important of these was the Hall Brothers Barbershop. S. Edward and O.C. Hall serviced white politicians and business leaders. Using these connections, the Hall Brothers posted jobs and personally referred many individuals to prospective employers. Churches began providing a more organized resource for locating jobs and housing through newsletters like St. James A.M.E.'s "The Helper."

In 1887, the Minnesota Protective and Industrial League and later the Afro American League played pivotal roles in improving the economic condition of blacks Out of a confluence of local activities and a national black agenda emerged the Urban League of Saint Paul, founded in 1923 with the help of barber S. Edward Hall. Interestingly, the local white business association objected to the formation of this branch fearing that it would encourage more black migration to Minnesota.