Thirty-six years ago, Rev. Jesse Jackson and his Chicago-based community group, People United to Save Humanity, staged a boycott of the Coca-Cola Company. The group had demanded that the company do more to support its Black consumers. At the time, Blacks accounted for 25% of Coke sales in its largest distribution areas.
The boycott, which was announced in July of 1981, was called off on August 11th after Jackson and his P.U.S.H. coalition received several concessions from Coca-Cola. The company had agreed to put $30 million into Black-owned businesses and appoint a Black person to its board of directors.
Rev. Jackson and Coca-Cola’s president, Donald Keough, had jointly announced the agreement at a news conference. Jackson had initiated the boycott in order to get Coke to increase its support of Black businesses.
The compromise that was reached, called for Coke to increase its involvement of Blacks in eight specific areas of the company’s business system. Coke agreed to grant 32 Black-owned distributorships, increase their advertising budget in Black-owned newspapers and magazines to $2 million, and seek to have a Black person join its board of directors immediately.
In addition, the company had set a ”goal” of filling 12.5 percent of its management force with Blacks and have 100 of its blue-collar jobs filled by Blacks as well. The company had also agreed to increase its deposits and loans with Black-owned banks, give a Black-owned advertising agency responsibility over the company’s $8 million advertising budget, and raise the company’s annual contributions to Black organizations to $250,000.