Black History: Detroit Housewives League

The 3rd Sunday in May is a special day in Black history when we celebrate the founder of the Detroit Housewives League, Fannie Peck.

“It was an attempt by African-American women to essentially try to expand the job market for all African Americans in Detroit by boosting the businesses, Black-owned businesses, and pressuring white-owned businesses to hire African American workers,” Victoria Wolcott, the author of Remaking Respectability: African-American Women in Interwar Detroit said.

In the beginning of the twentieth century, African-Americans arrived at Detroit’s Michigan Central Station in huge numbers. It was a part of the Great Migration of Blacks who escaped the South in search of improved economic and political conditions in the urban North. The most significant of these migrants have been the male industrial workers who found jobs in city car production. African-American women have largely been absent from usual stories concerning the Great Migration because they didn’t work at the plants and thus go unnoticed. telling the stories of these women, Victoria Wolcott reveals their vital role in shaping life in interwar Detroit.

In 1930s Black women couldn’t afford to stay at home and wait for their husbands. Too many businesses would sell goods and services to Black people but wouldn’t hire them. So in 1930 Detroit women led by Fannie Peck formed a group called the “Detroit Housewives’ League.” It educated women on their buying power and encouraged them to only shop at African-American owned businesses. The group was also initiating big protests and boycotts.

In 1935 they set a huge packing warehouse on fire protesting against high prices, and later joined thousands of Chicago housewives in a march that shut down the city’s entire meat industry.

The initiative became popular and similar groups started to appear all across the country as local chapters a National Housewives’ League of America.

Over the years the Detroit group helped to create over 70,000 jobs for Blacks, both men and women and started to patronize the White businesses that employed African-Americans.

However, the 3rd Sunday in May was a special day in Black history, it was set aside to celebrate the founder of the organization Fannie Peck.

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