Our Black Year: One Family’s Quest to Buy Black in America’s Racially Divided Economy

Maggie Anderson, Author
Maggie Anderson, with Ted Gregory. PublicAffairs, $25.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-61039-024-8
Reviewed on: 11/14/2011
Release date: 02/01/2012
Book - 321 pages - 978-1-61039-025-5
Paperback - 298 pages - 978-1-61039-228-0
Open Ebook - 1 pages - 978-1-280-58808-2
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What began as a 90-day project to “Buy Black” became a year-long project (2009–2010) and a foundation promoting black entrepreneurship for a Chicago couple, Maggie and John Anderson. They tried to get through the year patronizing only African-American businesses, “to document what products and services we could and could not find.” While this book shows them living their lives with social difficulties (what should one do if invited to a friend’s party thrown in a white establishment?) and emotional crises (a terminally ill parent, stressed friendships), the primary focus is on their foundation—its history, hard times, and highlights of the “Empowerment Experiment.” In merging the details of their effort—checking out establishments, getting celebrity endorsements, black business history, and multiple statistics—the book becomes repetitive, overwritten, and more tiresome than its dynamite subject deserves: “How insane is it that we couldn’t find a Black-owned store in all of Chicagoland with a consistent supply of fruits and vegetables?” If Anderson’s book gets readers to wrestle with that question, it will have done a good enough job to make what is largely a business history an effective probe into how African-Americans spend so much money that flows so overwhelmingly out of their community. (Jan.)
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