In July 1968 the Black Solidarity Committee for Community Improvement led a boycott of downtown Durham stores, which they resolved not to end until the city accepted a 15-page list of grievances and demands for change. This coalition 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,” made possible by the cooperation of the black community, whose members 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 to avoid purchasing from any store on the boycott list.
Black Christmas would not have been complete without its own Christmas parade, set to coincide with the Merchants Association’s own annual event. The parade, complete with a black Santa Claus, took place in the Hayti neighborhood.
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 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 “Matchup 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 blacks in Durham ever waged.