Durham’s Civil Rights Heritage
In July 1968 the Black Solidarity Committee for Community Improvement led a boycott of downtown Durham stores, which the committee resolved not to end until the city accepted a 15-page list of grievances and demands for change.
The committee was made up of a wide range of groups including unions, fraternities, civic and business organizations and 21 neighborhood councils. The high point of the boycott was "Black Christmas." To avoid purchasing from any store on the boycott list, members of Durham’s African-American community took buses to Raleigh and Greensboro to shop, bought goods from local churches that set up "shopping centers" in their basements and took other measures.
Black Christmas would not have been complete without its own Christmas parade, which coincided with the Merchants Association's annual event.
The Black Christmas boycott was so successful that it reduced the sales of the targeted businesses by an estimated 15 to 20 percent. After the holidays, negotiations resumed and led to formation of six joint committees to resolve issues that had provoked the boycott. Significant concessions were achieved, among them that stores began to hire African Americans in jobs formerly reserved for whites, two blacks were appointed to fill vacancies on the Housing Authority board, and the Chamber of Commerce began a “Match-up Program” to help find jobs for blacks and to actively look for instances of discrimination, injustice, or exclusion in business and civic affairs and work to eliminate them.
This was the longest, most successful, broadest-based protest African Americans in Durham ever waged.