During the open housing campaign of 1967-1968, the Milwaukee NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) Youth Council decided to supplement its open housing marches with economic boycotts. The boycotts targeted the city’s local businesses and aimed to decrease revenues so that business operators would push the Common Council to pass an open housing law. In September of 1967, at the recommendation of comedian/civil rights activist Dick Gregory, the Youth Council urged the community to boycott Schlitz Beer. Schlitz Beer was singled out mainly because it was the largest Milwaukee brewery and had the most widespread distribution. The sale and consumption of Schlitz dropped significantly in the black community. Many local bars, taverns, and liquor stores stopped selling the brand of beer altogether.
In November 1967, the Milwaukee NAACP Youth Council decided to begin a “Black Christmas” campaign. In this campaign, the Youth Council encouraged the black community and any other open housing supporters to boycott the commercial aspect of the Christmas season. They were not to buy gifts, decorations, or any other Christmas materials from merchants, particularly those located in the downtown area. The Black Christmas campaign was successful, causing local business in the city to drop substantially. Despite the economic boycotts, the Milwaukee Common Council remained obstinate and refused to pass a strong open housing law for Milwaukee for several more months. EM