Business and Unions

What was the purpose of the Colored Merchants Association?

Among the various cooperative movements that took place in the African-American community was the Colored Merchants Association, or CMA. The association aided in the development of black-owned grocery stores. In addition to grocery stores, the early cooperatives involved department stores, shoe stores, and other enterprises, and their work brought about meaningful results. The CMA’s purpose was to stimulate black business, effect cost-savings for customers, and provide jobs for blacks. Founded on August 10, 1928, in Montgomery, Alabama, by local grocer A. C. Brown, the organization soon spread to other states and then adopted the slogan “Quality, Service, and Price.” The voluntary chain would operate under the banner “C.M.A. Stores” and display the proprietor’s name below the CMA designation. The association promoted cooperative buying and intensive selling—a pronounced difference between the CMA and other cooperatives. CMA taught its members to move their merchandize quickly, in an effort to increase profit. Each week the member stores advertised cooperatively and promoted their businesses in weekly newspapers, taking care to promote special bargains. The advertisements were reprinted and distributed to black homes in communities where the stores were located. The members also worked to enhance business practices; thus, a uniform accounting system was installed in each store.


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