Boycotts against businesses have long been a powerful tool in demanding change; in particular, in our capitalistic society, economics is often the only language that people in power speak, be they business owners or elected officials. After the violence of Ax Handle Saturday, boycotting downtown businesses became a core strategy in forcing demands to be met for desegregation and dignity.

In the voice of Rodney L. Hurst Sr., from his book,  It was never about a hot dog and a Coke®!


Downtown stores began to feel the serious effects of the boycott, also known as the  “selective buying campaign.” Although the political power structure of Jacksonville tried to wreck the movement with the arrest of Hurst and other NAACP Youth Council members, this did not work and the boycotting and sit-ins continued.

“It became obvious that the business community did not see how serious we were about the boycott of downtown Jacksonville stores. In our opinion, [Bi-racial Committee] members were disingenuously stalling, hoping to outwait Black people regardless of the importance of the issues, and believing that if they were patient enough, we could capitulate and go back to business as usual. Not this time.”

– Rodney L. Hurst Sr.


The national reckoning on race triggered by George Floyd’s death — and COVID-19’s disproportionate toll on people of color — has brought fresh attention to the power of the dollar in propping up the exclusion of Black interests or actually funneling resources to businesses that are both Black-owned or in alignment with the goals of the movement for racial justice. While this can take the form of statements and Diversity and Inclusion efforts by companies that ring hollow at best, it has also been a moment of increased attention for those who are shining examples of excellence. Major corporate brands like ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s call for Americans to “dismantle white supremacy” while the NBA stepped up to support their players and vendors. Even Bank of America has pledged $1 billion over four years to address racial and economic inequality, much of which they have perpetuated for generations. Iconic and racist symbols, like Quaker Oats’ 131-year-old Aunt Jemima brand that’s been retired and the NASCAR ban of the confederate flag from its events and properties, have joined the fray to finally make overdue changes. Maybe even more importantly, there are significant efforts underway to Buy Black and invest in Black-owned businesses.