From Boycott to Black Power

The Thelma McDaniel Collection at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania consists of newspaper articles, pamphlets, flyers, position papers, letters, and reports accumulated between 1935 and 1989 by Ms. McDaniel, a politically engaged African American resident of Philadelphia. By examining some of these primary sources, students can gather direct evidence of the transition from the nonviolent direct action of the early civil rights era to the more aggressive tactics associated with Black Power.

Essential Questions

How has social disagreement and collaboration been beneficial to Pennsylvania society?

Objectives

  • Students will be able to cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.
  • Students will be able to determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source, and provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.
  • Students will assess the extent to which the reasoning and evidence in a text support the author’s claims. 

Other Materials

Analyzing Boycott Flyers Student Worksheet

Suggested Instructional Procedures

1.  Document Exploration:  As students view the A&P and Rizzo flyers, they should gather the following information from each using the Analyzing Boycott Flyers worksheet:

  • What businesses are being targeted?
  • What is the time frame of the action?
  • What demands are being made through the boycott?
  • Who are the organizers?
  • What term is used to describe the race of the boycotters?

2. Once students have gathered this information, they should put the flyers into chronological order and explain how they determined the sequence.

3.  Have student discuss questions, such as:

  • The target of the first boycott was narrow, but the time frame was open-ended; the reverse was true of the second. Which would be a better strategy for a boycott?
  • The goals of the first boycott were specific and could be acted upon by the targeted company. The goal of the second boycott, the firing of Police Commissioner Rizzo, could not be carried out by the targeted businesses. Compare the likely effectiveness of the different approaches.
  • The tone is much angrier in the second flyer. What had happened in Philadelphia and/or across the nation to inspire such evident wrath and frustration in the black community?
  • Neither of the boycotts encouraged white involvement even though there were many whites supportive of black access to jobs in 1962 and opposed to Frank Rizzo in 1967. Do you think this was intentional on the part of the organizers?
  • In a Philadelphia Tribune article, one of the organizers of the anti-Rizzo boycott said, “We will have to explain to our children why they will not receive toys. We will tell them that not getting presents may seem terrible but that later in life, the will discover that the power structure is denying them things much more important than toys.” What role might the focus on Christmas gifts for children have had on the failure of the boycott?

4.  As an assessment, have students look at an additional flyer from the Thelma McDaniel collection for which we cannot identify the specific campaign entitled "Black People Boycott."  (The boycott calling for Rizzo’s firing was not launched until after Thanksgiving, so it is unlikely that the “Black People Boycott” flyer was part of the same effort.) Based on the previous document analysis and discussion, what hypothesis can be formulated about the origin of this flyer?
 

Vocabulary

Black Power movement: an attitude among African Americans that emphasized racial pride and self-esteem.This was not an organized movement.
Boycott: to refuse to use or buy something as a protest.
Selective patronage:  only purchasing or using the services of a select group, boycotting others outside of that group.