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OUR BLACK YEAR by Maggie Anderson

OUR BLACK YEAR

One Family's Quest to Buy Black in America's Racially Divided Economy

By Maggie Anderson (Author) , Ted Gregory (Author)

Pub Date: Feb. 14th, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-61039-024-8
Publisher: PublicAffairs

An African-American couple in a Chicago neighborhood pledged to spend 2009 patronizing black-owned businesses; they discovered that this was no easy task.

With the aid of Pulitzer Prize–winning Chicago Tribune journalist Gregory, business-strategy consult Anderson narrates the story of their decision and how they struggled to carry it out. The book also covers the author’s launch of a self-help economics movement while raising two young daughters and caring for a dying mother. While an appendix prepared by faculty and students at the Kellogg School of Management details the relevant statistics about the Andersons' expenditures and black spending power and entrepreneurship, it is the personal story of the challenges faced by the Andersons that brings those figures to life. Just finding well-run black-owned businesses was a time-consuming chore, and finding ones that managed to stay in business was even more so. Anderson was forced to drive to poor, rundown neighborhoods and to shop in stores that didn't stock fresh meat and produce, healthful foods, needed household products or clothing for her growing daughters. Adding insult to injury, following her public appearances to promote her black-empowerment message, vicious hate mail from both blacks and whites attacked her motives. The author’s frustrations and disappointments—as well as hope—are the central focus, but there is a larger story at play. Anderson looks at the reasons for the present conditions, putting them in perspective with some history of self-help efforts in the 19th century, black cooperatives of the early 20th century and the effects of the civil-rights movement on black-owned businesses. An epilogue describes the plan for the Empowerment Experiment Foundation research center to study and document the effects of the self-help movement.

Effectively highlights the economic disparity between blacks and whites and dramatizes the challenges facing those who would close the gap.