Support The Christmas Boycott – 1963

Rev. A. B. Cleage on Christmas Gifts

In 1963, Ossie and Ruby Davis, James Baldwin, John O. Killens, Odetta, and Louis Lomax formed the Association of Artists for Freedom, which called for a Christmas boycott to protest the church bombing, and asked that, instead of buying gifts, people make Christmas contributions to civil rights organizations. I remember that my extended family participated in the boycott.  My sister and I were teenagers. I don’t remember anything else about that Christmas. The article below was printed in the Illustrated news in November 1963.

Christmas_boycott_1963 1
Click to enlarge.
Insert, Louis Lomax, James Baldwin, Louis Lomax, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee and Odetta called for a boycott of Christmas gifts.
Insert, Louis Lomax. Back row:  James Baldwin, Oliver Killens, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee and Odetta  artists who called for the boycott of Christmas Boycott in 1963.

Other links for 1963

Kennedy Refuses to Support Civil Rights Demands

Remembering 1963

Six Dead After Church Bombing – Washington Post article from 1963

18 thoughts on “Support The Christmas Boycott – 1963

  1. What a wonderful idea that can provide support for a good cause! Maybe I’m just dreading shopping, but I almost wish that there would be another Christmas boycott. 🙂

    1. Me too! It just seems like everybody has so much stuff already. I tried to interest them in me donating the money in their name to Kiva or the Heifer project or something, but that went over like a lead ball in most cases.

  2. Thanks for sharing this article, Kristin. I agree with you there that it does seem like everybody has so much stuff already. Hope you had a good Thanksgiving.

  3. Forgive me if I sound a wee bit jealous Kris, I know during this time period we faced tremendous struggle, but I can’t help admiring the strength of our people then and their willingness to just stand up for what’s right; what was just. Picture what trying to get well known celebrities to unite and BOYCOTT CHRISTMAS would look like today? These were leaders that stood & continued to stand. And I am a bit envious I have to vicariously live through you. Be glad I’m not in Atlanta anymore. I’d be bugging you every minute — oh wait I already do!:)


    P.S. Did folks support/honor the boycott? Did more work come from the group?

    1. It wasn’t a big success. Most people didn’t want to deny their kids. Some figured it was all going to be over soon anyway, no need to boycott Christmas. I’m going to do another post about the group later in the week.

  4. Wow! Thank you for posting this article Kristin. I had no idea that this boycott happened. This is the year that I was born, I’m giving my age away here, 🙂 They weren’t afraid to stand for what they believed. Beautiful. 🙂

    1. Well, I was 17 so you were lots younger than I was 🙂 For sure they weren’t afraid and they did something besides complain.

  5. Great bit of history! I did not know about this. Seems like we need to learn and borrow from it and re-deploy some of these same strategies today!

  6. Too much expensive “stuff”. I think that was and is a wonderful idea but doubtful that I can convince all to participate. I don’t remember the Birmingham Xmas Boycott….but what a powerful message that had to have been….that and the bus boycott “hit em’ where it hurt. In the AA theatre world everyone is always looking for a new, fresh and meaningful holiday play……the Birmingham Boycott would certainly be a good/strong story. Wow.

    1. I know. That’s why it failed then. Couldn’t convince enough people to do it.

      It wasn’t in Birmingham, AL. It was in response to the bombing of the church that killed the girls in Birmingham. It would make a powerful story, especially if you let the boycott catch on and be successful and change the future (which is where we are now living, the future of the failed boycott.)

  7. Excellent article! Considering all of the angst and frustration so many are feeling about this current election, I would love to see everyone who is protesting on the streets, embrace this concept this holiday season and send Washington a strong financial message by boycotting Black Friday and Cyber Monday. If that doesn’t get folks attention, continue that boycott right on into the holiday shopping season. Getting everyone on board with this idea is a stretch. Oh but how effective it would be!

    1. And there are many gifts that could be given that don’t support big business – artists and crafts people have sales at this time. We could print out some interesting family history story and pass it on. Copy a family photo and pass it on. We can bake things, give jars of soup, tickets to black or Latin@ theater, copies of books people are self publishing. You can look online for other ideas if you really want to skip the usual. We can express our love without spending money with those who have so much money already.

  8. This might be a good year for another boycott. Some of my friends aren’t feeling very charitable towards their Trump-voting relatives. I suggest instead of a pair of slippers, they give to the ACLU or NOW in the name of their racist, misogynist relative.

  9. Here’s a more current appeal. Thanks for your article.



    Trump said blacks had nothing to lose.

    So see what happens when we stop spending our dollars this Xmas holiday in protest of the Trump presidency.

    According to the National Retail Federation holiday sales will exceed $630 billion. Nielsen forecasts multicultural consumers are driving increased sales with African-Americans making up the largest increase. That’s 17% more than other groups. Our purchasing power is reaching $1.3 trillion and we should use it wisely.

    Boycott this Christmas!

    Make America Listen Again!

  10. Great idea! I think we need to do more of this to get the attention of the powers that be.

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