Durham's Civil Rights Heritage
The Selective Buying Campaign began July 28, 1968, when an organization called the Black Solidarity Committee for Community Improvement (BSCCI) issued a 15-page memorandum to the Durham Chamber of Commerce and Merchants Association. This document demanded improvements in facilities, hiring, fire protection, appointments to decision-making bodies and more. It also outlined the consequences of inaction, which would begin with an economic boycott and proceed to public demonstrations and civil disobedience if necessary. The very next day a boycott of Northgate Shopping Center businesses began. By the middle of August, 14 other firms had been added to the BSCCI’s do-not-patronize list, and eventually all but a couple of downtown stores were included.
The committee, chaired by Howard Clement and representing a broad swath of organizations in Durham’s African-American community, negotiated throughout the fall with the merchants association and chamber. The boycott culminated in “Black Christmas,” featuring its own Christmas parade. By February 16, 1969, commitments had been made for the Hayti community to receive better fire protection, the recreation department to hire blacks in upper-level jobs and improve the facilities at W. D. Hill Recreation Center, and school facilities to be used for recreation during the summer. These actions convinced the boycott’s leaders that progress was truly being made, and a moratorium was called February 16, 1969. Stores were estimated to have lost $900,000.