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I i i i i. Black Christmas in Milwaukee. I think the Christmas tree has lights and other decorations are noticeably lacking in Milwaukee's inner core this winter and to an extent what has replaced them is an idea an idea for a Black Christmas I think. The idea originated earlier this fall with a suggestion by comedian Dick Gregory negroes would put economic pressure on the city for an open housing law by not buying gifts and food for Christmas. The idea was turned into a
campaign by the youth council of the Milwaukee NWA Sepi a group advised by Father James grabby the commandos of the youth council have marched for over 100 nights in support of a strong open housing law added to their marches. They now support a boycott and what they call Beautiful Black Christmas. The idea has provoked a variety of reaction from the Negro community. Much of it critical on this program you'll hear first a montage of opinion from negro residents of Milwaukee's inner core. Later an interview will made at St. Boniface church with two spokesman for the commandos. We begin with comments from core residents. Don't put up you know like you know any decorations and don't buy toys and clothes or they will spit in a model with white Americans. This is this was the idea of the By Christmas you see.
And it was of my own I am my own individual way of doing it. You came. You don't have to. This was the point would be nice if you cooperate with us but if you want to go otherwise there's no compassion is the way I received it and it was just to make the white power walk bring about the business of the open house and more but this is the this was really the idea of blackness. Well I first heard about it through to Gregory and it was seem to me to be a sort of spur of the moment thing but it seemed to catch on in the beginning but then when it got so far gone it just it just got out of hand. The people didn't have to create the mission of a Black Christmas everyone had a different definition and it is blue and a lot of people didn't want to take part in it because they felt that it would deprive the children of things that they don't normally have such as toys and special dinners
and things. But I feel that the child the town's not being deprived. And I feel this way because as it's been the people have done away from the meaning of Christmas anyway the people worship Santa Claus and the true meaning should be put back into Christmas. One more thing that father brought out that I thought was very nice. He said that he was trying also to get the black people to get away from the idea of associating all of this by the Christmas season for one reason because the black people for the most part can't afford the prices that there are sit around Christmas time. He said if you could get them away from the idea of just shopping for these toys and things around Christmas time that he could get the idea. And to them that they could do more sophisticated shopping even after Christmas not to shop at the neighborhood stores or the stores downtown close around
he wants them to began to do sophisticated shopping shop out and therefore that would help them to stay away from the smaller stores that are constantly having them in court for garnishment. The goal is a very good thing to have but boy has heard this has been successful such as Columbus. About five years ago they had a 100 percent boycott during the Christmas season and indeed they got things that they wanted. Perhaps these things were were gifts they did really change the system because we can't change this is it without a revolution. A lot of these small businesses are really suffering they suffered from the rioting something terrible and is it fair to make them suffer even more so. And just by saying well I won't shop on third for fear that I'll be seen with Christmas presents. I'll go out to Southgate or
Catholic or someplace else and I think what I really think I'm trying to say is that I don't think the majority of the community is going along with this pork. They're doing a sort of sneaking out because they don't want repercussions you know maybe they have some friends are very strong on this Black Christmas bit and they don't want to offend them. And if they approach there you go observe Black Christmas say well yeah you know but great reservations. This is not going to be really meaningful to them. I was talking to any store that sold nothing but toys and they informed me that they were doing better business this year than they did. You know you're before before are heard about Christmas. I have started my Christmas shopping early and I've bought most of the toys for my little boy. As far back as September. And so now that I have most of them I'm going to go along with giving him the toys for Christmas. But as far as all that.
All of the decorations that I had planned on having I won't have these as far as the lights and this type of thing. But like I said as long as I have the things that I didn't hear about it until you know after I have done most of my shopping then I think that I'll have to just go along with that part then too before. When I first heard about Black Christmas I had the. It wasn't really explained there are you hearing bits and pieces around the neighborhood. But after we had a meeting with father and he explained just what the purpose was it was it seemed like a much better idea to me than it did before. You know it's been through and through that Negroes don't you know they don't stick together. But this is a vet and put him to the test at Christmas time as it's most of the black children don't get anything until Christmas everything is stored up until Christmas a special day and during the year they don't get toys and they don't they don't get
candy and a lot of the Christmas time. This is the only time you get up so this is something we look forward to as people do they start saving through the summer for Christmas in fact if you go through the core you probably find people a Christmas savings account for this one special occasion. And that's why I'm saying this was a bad time for Christmas. Perhaps it was a choice of many people like appreciate you. But we have a economic boycott is a good thing. But one particular group such as a youth council could out voice something for the whole community. And this is what effect has taken place here.
So many people are against it. Mixed emotions about the Black Christmas idea. First of all I think that it could have been a good idea providing planning and some real mobilization of the community and take the community to a Black Christmas. I personally am not favorable of a Black Christmas even though it has earmarks of being a very terrific idea very traffic cos I don't feel that by having a brac like Christmas we're going to get very far and I think that too many people mainly children suffer from this. How to explain to children that were celebrating a Black Christmas because we're trying to push certain so right issues such as Open House you know this is not meaningful to them.
It's been disrupting her class talking about the Black Christmas every time she starts to explain Christmas to the children. She'll get up and start to talk about Christmas. Because we don't have fair housing so I received a note from the teacher asking me if I could point was that she was interrupting the class and she really. And so I talked to I didn't encourage you either. So about two weeks later the teacher did explain to them the meaning of Christmas and that it was to boycott the stores that didn't support open house and children are going along with it. As my daughter brought out they can we can always get toys mother to say I really don't go along with like most
teenagers and grown adults. OK but I don't think we should take that one day away from our children because they're looking forward to it they don't really know what the blackness was me and to keep the white merchants from getting money get into our minor spin in our mind with you know we could do something otherwise even if they had started working on Christmas in July because so many people started putting their toys and me away and they wouldn't take them out now. They take them out if they got taken away from and I don't much blame them because of their kids. I mean my kids but I have nieces and nephews and friends with kids and I feel that these kids the they have a little enjoyment they don't really know what putting Christ back into Christmas me until they get a certain age you know so I think there are lots can go wrong in a teenager but with the kids. I just really think they should at least with some American commanders and that they do and I don't believe they're going to do the type of damage that we hear the rumors about I really don't believe they will because I think father leading a very fine group of
young people and they are doing good. This was the wrong time and we wasn't informed. As fully as we should've been I'm sure that the people would have gone along with it if they had if it had been explained to them or their early but as a girls we received a lot of threats. Well if you can read me well I'll just have to go do it to prove that I will do it. I Heard It Through The Grapevine too because the grapevine is pretty pretty strong and I think it's around and one person I heard it from her and I called up someone else you know and then someone else called up someone else and really none of us really had been directly affected by threats. It was just that what we had heard but it's been a concern of quite a few quite a few people the landlord asked me says are you going to put a Christmas tree up. So put it in a corner and one of the windows broken out. Then as to what did you hear but all you'd heard from someone else. So we can't really trace the thing down. Again I say you have cancer I don't feel wants people
to celebrate Christmas out of fear. But this is really what's happening. I tell you what I think about Christmas. I recognize the right of individuals to peacefully demonstrate and I recognize a row of demonstrations and this is as it should be. This is part of the history of this country. Let you make known your greetings. However when in the process of demonstrating you violate the civil rights of others you use the tactics of intimidation to coerce individuals into specific kind of acts. I would suggest that you doing the very same thing to other individuals that you are concerned about yourself. And I would leave it to everyone to make his own choice in terms of whether he wanted to participate
not to participate but out the element of intimidation. They have told people that they will tear down their Christmas decorations if they put them up. I imagine many people well I don't mean to say that they're going to put their Christmas trees in the kitchen and that sort of thing. Keep their shades on. Because there is fear there is tremendous tension in community policing this immediate community. People that we work with here because we were right as a woman came in and said she was downtown she just come out with a number of packages and came up to her and told that she should be shopping. Did she know the rules. When he took her packages they walked down the street. Oh yes I believe that has been happening. I really don't. I believe God has been kind of people that know something to do you know have people leave things on other people and the commanders really isn't to blame. I don't believe I'm going to
do this. As we've been sitting here discussing by Christmas the thought came to me. I wonder how the white community will feel as they sit around the trees with their families on Christmas morning with all the toys and all the joys of Christmas knowing that the black community is not having these things simply because that we're trying to fight for our rights. If it fails at least the people at least they've tried. You know it takes always take someone to start something. And the youth council started it. What they thought is a good idea. I mean we have to give them credit for trying something. What other ways have failed. But I don't think it's going to fall through I think even as of now I've heard that all the stores are losing a lot of money even if they only lose say $100 that will be you know it'll make them aware that we did try.
I think part of this is brought about as far as the fear is concerned. Some people are afraid to go shopping because of the rumors the rumors that they have heard. But if the thing goes through if it if it's successful and I think soon after that they'll forget about the fear and probably be glad that they did. You know did support it. You know even if it was because they were afraid. The reactions of residents of Milwaukee's inner core to the idea of a Black Christmas and now an interview made by Ralph Johnson at St. Boniface church where two spokesmen for the commandos at that time. If you work you know what were the ideas what we actually want to encourage people to do what I said to encourage to people. At first we let them know why we were why we were going to have a Black Christmas.
Then mainly the things we would request him to do is to stop buying anything as far as toys or to show any thing about Black Christmas. I mean a white Christmas that is buying toys shopping normally as they used to do on a Christmas Day Christmas holidays or whatever. And to made a stop bank period so that we can keep the money right in our own community and use this money for the proper things it's necessary for us. What about the decorating end of it and Christmas trees and so on. Well we were once supposed to show any kind of decoration. We were supposed to be showing us some of the birth of Christ. There's no room there was no room for him in the end by having a Black Christmas this would be an acknowledgement of this the way the Common Council in the city of Milwaukee feel them saying a black man an open house in this world to be a symbol just like Christmas it
would neither buy anything but the thing that were necessary. We also would spend that day praising God and not by the white man. We figure by if we go downtown and we start by and as law we would back from the white marches downtown that this would give them more white power and if we had withheld our green power they would have to recognize black power and it's been very effective. Is this the first time your group has tried an economic boycott. You know just a fair exchange. But I think that this is one of the bass type of boycotts. Well we had you know a boycott facilites and when this is somewhat of a boycott The Black Christmas and same like every town we take a step forward to boycott and become quite effective because it's a true nature that we have we should
have our rights and we made it a good law is on our side you know. So this is one of the reasons I believe the most effect and I think when we decide to do something else as far as boycotting is concerned this will also be affected. You know I've been talking to a number of people in the corps and there seems to be I'm sure you're well aware some people that don't go along with it. Some people have criticized it. One of the criticisms would be that maybe well maybe we shouldn't decorate so much outside and maybe we should buy ourselves presents but the kids should have presents little kids. Well I like to make a statement on it in the first place. The grown people on the teachers or the bosses the leaders what have you. Some time has to take a step on their own. I mean a lot of times it affects the younger kids but the younger kids can make decisions. We know what's best for their mothers and fathers knows what s on because by
doing nice things taken away a little of the things that hurt the kids sometimes it'll make it better for them in the future whereas they'll know when they get older what's happened because in the first place I don't think that a black person should actually scream about a Christmas in the first place because for one thing when long ago when our forefathers and mothers came from Africa and the Continent I don't think I don't think there was no Santa Claus flying across the air in a sleigh it would reindeer. Another thing. We scream about Christmas and here's another little affected thing the white man goes out every year in his red outfit you understand and shoot up all the deer and what have you and then he comes back and he tells all the kids we're going to have a Santa Clause He'll be here Rudolph and all the rest of them you know. But actually well one of elation on the key is say we have to think about the kids is true but we have to think about a lot of other things which go make it better for them in the future is toward education
and everything. Truth don't hurt anybody. Another major criticism which I've heard from people in the car with him with time has been that this particular effort wasn't planned and coordinated with other groups and another was to get a wide enough base of support. Would you have done it differently if you could have planned it two months earlier. Not actually because we didn't have very much support from them from the get go in open housing in the first place and we didn't think that they would even participate as I should anyway by being a black person. But I think we did a pretty effective job I don't think we had really organized just a truth and it's right there and so it just come right out you know it's the truth. So we didn't figure we had to plan it or organize it just tell it like it is by Christmas you know and that's it. I'm sure you will know where the most serious criticism has been from people that have
heard and there is. A good deal of rumor flying around. To them I've heard specifically that if you put your tree up your ally will get a brick through your window or your house burned down and the other one is that people have been apparently accosted on the street coming from stores and their merchandise knocked down and are taken away. This was not initiated as a policy by the commandos was it. No it wasn't. First of all people have to realize this. We the commandos that is we are still a man and gentleman and we try and to do these things effectively. We have a lot of people running around as you say harassing people. But these are the people who has been a rason people every Christmas snatching their purses and doing this type of thing. Just because you see a person out there want to switch or known it doesn't mean that he's a commando. It could be a person who just came in and bought a shirt to represent to you counsel. And we have a lot of different
organizations who are opposed to what we're doing. So they would do anything they would do anything to hurt us. The commandos because they don't like a lot of people don't. But as far as throwing bricks through windows or. Burning down houses bothering anyone. This is this is not doing we don't have any part in this we're supporting Black Christmas in every way. But if somebody would like to put up a Christmas tree decorate their home this is their business. But you must realize also there are a lot of people will go to the extent to break windows or do something destructive just for the sake of it period. But as far as the commando botany you've consul members trying to hurt anybody this is out of the question we spend too much time to prevent people from getting hurt so we can take a time out to hurt
anybody. And this is just rumors being brought up by people who dislike the organization or the effectiveness of the organization because they didn't get the front seat. So this is a definite we're not going to bother. Matter of fact if someone want to put them up there own good business. Condolence call would all you know my condolences. Have a good Christmas. If they're going to have one. But first before we do this I would like for him to think think about this christmas think about if this is really a Christmas for them a white Christmas is white Christmas really for the black face at all. And if they stop and think a few minutes stay alive and understand that this was heard in about a dish is definitely out. We're not going to bother anyone that a fact we're going to spend most of our time praying in and trying to prevent people from harassing other people.
When you were planning this thing in the first place did it go it was a part of yours. Thinking that something like this might happen and you might get going for it. We consider this fact too because it's not the first time you know. So we felt as though it would be a lot of bigotry and foolishness. But this was something that had to be done in the process because you know people have asked to get heard and movements to get to freedom and we considered this fact but we try and we try to stress firmly for the ones that has considered doing something wrong to thought out of mind and forget about it. If they want to have a Black Christmas celebrate a Black Christmas the want of a white Christmas celebrate but don't hide it one for what they want to do period. What kind of means are you using to try to encourage people not violently to. Observe a Black Christmas. We have sent out flyers. We have been to the churches and made speeches in Tata and the minister have talked to
their congregation consigning is cooperating with the bad Christian is strictly on a voluntary basis that we asked us and you've had pretty good reaction I think. I would say at least I would say 60 percent as you know is when you want to really get oh you don't see very many trees of many many Christmas lights no decorations you on in the day. Yes I would say here's a sign of progress of this thing. But any plans for any mass meetings or rallies or our church services especially connected with us. Yes there will be mass media. Christmas Day we will march Christmas Day and we will show the power structure in Milwaukee that we yet have a desire to macho and if necessary till hell freezes over and we consider Milwaukee hail. We also are prepared to macho when alone we think that we might have to do this anyway. Until we can find a better way with some of the groups I've been talking with an individual's question came up as to whether
the observations of Black Christmas and some people being for it some people not. I've talked to people who felt very strongly emotionally that this became a test of unity of the Negro community in Milwaukee. Do you feel it's it's that sort of thing. Well if I could have would say so. We hadn't planned it this way but it has been thought of because it is a test of unity togetherness in everything I mean let's face it black brother got to stick together for so long we've been apart because we've been afraid to do this and afraid to do that and I think these young men and the commandoes myself and everybody that has been affiliated with this has gotten out and played a part in a row. And a lot of people look at this and they feel like damn it. If they can do it I can do it. By doing this we have brought together a great deal of unity we really have it now and this is why I like Major Mel to say it. We're going to march to free Hill freezes over and the more we march and the more that we show that we're going to keep
on mice until we get what we want now. And even in the future then I think we're going to bring in quite a few people is going to be a great deal of change here in this city. If we can still survive like Christmas in Milwaukee a program taken from interviews recorded in Milwaukee's inner car the program was produced at W H A the University of Wisconsin by Bethel Pern and Ralph Johnson. This is Ken almost speaking I
The Inner Core
Conversations from the Inner Core
Black Christmas in Milwaukee
Producing Organization
Wisconsin Public Radio
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Wisconsin Public Radio (Madison, Wisconsin)
The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia (Athens, Georgia)
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Episode Description
Includes suggestion by comedian Dick Gregory that Negroes put pressure on the city of Milwaukee for an open-housing law by refusing to shop for Christmas; Father James Groppi and the Youth Council of the NAACP demonstrated for support; Comments of the inner city residents: pros and cons. Hard on kids. Effort not well coordinated. Threats of intimidation; Spokesmen for the NAACP 'Commandos': 'No room at the inn'--- the open-housing message to Whites; Parents should explain to the kids.; They feel satisfied with the Black Christmas effort. Deny intimidation. Plan to march on Christmas Day.sing to shop for Christmas.
Program Description
"The Milwaukee NAACP Youth Council, advised by Father James Groppi, has marched for more than 100 nights demonstrating for an open housing ordinance. In November they added a call for a boycott called Beautiful Black Christmas. The resulting fears, tensions, confusion and commitment are examined in this documentary."--1967 Peabody Awards entry form.
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Milwaukee; Christmas; Urban Community; Interviews
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Producer: Johnson, Ralph
Producing Organization: Wisconsin Public Radio
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Wisconsin Public Radio
Identifier: ic_blackchristmas (Filename)
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Generation: Master
Duration: 00:29:30
Wisconsin Public Radio
Identifier: WPR1.59.1.1967.6_MA1 (WPR)
Generation: Master
Duration: 00:29:30
The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia
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Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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Chicago: “The Inner Core; Conversations from the Inner Core; Black Christmas in Milwaukee,” 1967-12-24, Wisconsin Public Radio, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 26, 2022,
MLA: “The Inner Core; Conversations from the Inner Core; Black Christmas in Milwaukee.” 1967-12-24. Wisconsin Public Radio, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 26, 2022. <>.
APA: The Inner Core; Conversations from the Inner Core; Black Christmas in Milwaukee. Boston, MA: Wisconsin Public Radio, The Walter J. Brown Media Archives & Peabody Awards Collection at the University of Georgia, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from