Traci Parker presents "Department Stores and the Black Freedom Movement"

Thursday June 27, 7:00PM

@ Red Emma's

In "Department Stores and the Black Freedom Movement: Workers, Consumers, and Civil Rights from the 1930s to the 1980s," Traci Parker examines the movement to racially integrate white-collar work and consumption in American department stores, and broadens our understanding of historical transformations in African American class and labor formation. Built on the goals, organization, and momentum of earlier struggles for justice, the department store movement channeled the power of store workers and consumers to promote black freedom in the mid-twentieth century. Sponsoring lunch counter sit-ins and protests in the 1950s and 1960s, and challenging discrimination in the courts in the 1970s, this movement ended in the early 1980s with the conclusion of the Sears, Roebuck, and Co. affirmative action cases and the transformation and consolidation of American department stores. In documenting the experiences of African American workers and consumers during this era—including in Baltimore City—Parker highlights the department store as a key site for the inception of a modern black middle class, and demonstrates the ways that both work and consumption were battlegrounds for civil rights.


Traci Parker is assistant professor of Afro-American studies at University of Massachusetts, Amherst. 

"Traci Parker’s Department Stores and the Black Freedom Movement is a highly readable account of African American struggles to secure equal access to the palaces of consumption that once dominated American retail. While pre–civil rights era department stores were theoretically open to all, most offered blacks few employment opportunities, and unequal service. Parker's book chronicles both this discrimination and black resistance to it, offering an engrossing account of the department store movement that extends from the 'Don’t Buy Where You Can’t Work Campaigns' of the 1920s to the sit-ins of the 1960s." —Mia Bay, coeditor of Race and Retail: Consumption Across the Color Line

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