Business and Commerce

Economic Boycotts and Protests

What was the “Don’t Buy Where You Can’t Work” campaign?

This campaign forced America to take a look at the economic potential of the black race and to help determine the effects of employment and unemployment of people. In a sense, it functioned as a consumer cooperative. The campaign began in Chicago in 1929, when blacks organized a boycott of Chicago’s white merchants who refused to hire blacks. It is known variously as “Don’t Spend Your Money Where You Can’t Work,” “Jobs for Negroes,” and “Don’t Buy Where You Can’t Work.” It promoted what was known as the “Double Duty Dollar” that churches in Chicago promoted to encourage blacks to make their dollars help businesses financially as well as advance race-related goals. The campaign was the forerunner of the economic boycotts and protests that were practiced during the modern Civil Rights Movement. It spread from Chicago to other major cities, with branches in still more urban areas. Finally, it reached smaller towns, such as Richmond, Virginia, and Alliance, Ohio. The campaign was slow to take hold in Harlem, where it was launched around 1930; it took ten years for jobs for blacks to become a reality on a widespread basis. Organizations such as the Harlem Housewives League and the Colored Merchants’ Association joined in the protest. These efforts in Harlem ended around World War II, when blacks had many other compelling issues to address.


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