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

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  373 ratings  ·  90 reviews
Maggie and John Anderson were successful African American professionals raising two daughters in a tony suburb of Chicago. But they felt uneasy over their good fortune. Most African Americans live in economically starved neighborhoods. Black wealth is about one tenth of white wealth, and black businesses lag behind businesses of all other racial groups in every measure of ...more
Kindle Edition, 322 pages
Published February 14th 2012 by PublicAffairs
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Start your review of Our Black Year: One Family's Quest to Buy Black in America's Racially Divided Economy
I didn't want to give this any stars because I'm still so unclear on how I feel about it. There are moments when the author's voice is insufferable and she seems to write off her class privilege, but then there are moments in the book where she hits on some things that I know are true, specifically because I used to live in Chicago and I saw certain things every day. Her exercise in trying to buy from all black businesses in a year highlights I think simply all of the things that black people do ...more
Jan 02, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
Our Black Year: One Family’s Quest to Buy Black in America’s Racially Divided Economy” is the story of a Chicago couple that attempted to shop only black owned business for a year (2009) and document the experience. It contained quite a bit about the history of Chicago (more than I wanted to find here) but it also documented the history on the rise and fall of black businesses in general. Although I never made the connection, I wasn’t surprised to learn how the trickle-down effect of race ...more
Feb 28, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Our Black Year; that title makes it sound like some kind of curiosity experiment. The first thought that comes to mind for me is how can Black people have a black year? Isn't your whole life black, all of your years filled with the wonderful sights, tastes and sounds of black culture. Ok, just had to get that out there. Now, having said that, it is a great thing that Ms. Anderson has undertaken. Basically, Ms. Anderson with support of her husband made a conscious effort to spend as much of their ...more
Kris Herndon
May 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. This woman went through hell trying to buy from only Black-owned businesses for one year, and it's a very thought-provoking account of that experiment, but that's not the only reason I loved it. I loved her honesty about the experience -- about her own bitterness and discouragement, her mixed feelings about race, the way it affected her children, etc, etc. It must have been hard to write.

There are some sad moments in the book. The author learns the hard way that anonymous
Nikhil P. Freeman
It's hard to serve people you disdain, but that is what the Andersons attempt in their misguided quest to "buy Black" for an entire year. As representatives of the so-called talented tenth, I'm surprised they never really acknowledged their hatred of the follow peers as well--card carrying members of the Black Bourgeoisie--that they were surprised at the level of indifference and sabotage shown to their efforts. What did they think was going to happen? Seriously. American society has never been ...more
I was really looking forward to reading this book but can't in good conscience recommend it to anyone who actually cares about empowering poor, working-class, and middle-class black communities.

Anderson's tone and language were infuriating. She was often condescending, snobby, and downright hateful. As an example, at one point toward the end she referred to Chicago's black West Side and South Side neighborhoods as "feral." Yup. I read that and had to flip over to the about-the-author flap to
Jul 01, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Unfortunately I never finished this book mostly because I couldn't get past the author's tone. She obviously is very detached to the common concerns of the lower and middle classes she purports to support in her " experiment" which she seems to have undertaken as a way to assuage guilt or maybe garner gratitude. Although I enjoyed the analysis explaining the dearth of Black owned businesses, I stopped reading when Ms. Anderson had a meltdown over her daughter's outfit because it didn't match her ...more
Mar 31, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book affirmed what I've always known to be true. We must engage in "conscious consumerism" where possible in order to create and support black businesses. This is not an exercise in racism, but rather in community and racial self-preservation and determination so that we can create intergenerational wealth and increase life opportunities for subsequent generations in the same manner that other groups of people always have.
Dec 11, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I chose this pick with enthusiasm and could not wait for it to become available at my local library. I was intrigued by the subject matter and even happier when I learned that the Andersons reside in Chicago and we even attend the same church. They appeared to be an educated African American couple about to embark on something wonderful. I figured their experiment, whether they failed or succeeded, would bring attention to the racial disparities of economic growth and highlight African American ...more
Pretty amazing, pretty heartbreaking and embarrassing, yet very hopeful. If you're a know-it-all snob choc full of pride you do not want read this book, you can't handle it. I loved getting to know the author in this book through her writing style - her voice. I heard a mother, a wife and a professional sporadically throughout and felt as if we were having a very long, rich conversation. I felt her anger, her grief and her passion, which I can't say I expected a lot of seeing that this was a ...more
Jun 04, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thought I had grown weary of the "do something for a year" types of books, but this one rejuvenated me on the genre. Anderson provides sobering statistics and anecdotes on the realities of Black-owned businesses -- their prevalence, how they are/are not supported, the positives outcomes they can bring to their communities, and how many seemed doomed to fail. It's not enough to just shop locally; we need to be hyper aware of where our dollars and cents end up and which communities benefit from ...more
Mar 07, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Harrowing, inspiring, depressing exploration of where Black people are today. Smart, funny and sweet. Makes you want to try harder.
Jan 23, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Oooh boy.


I'm trying to figure out who this book is for. I think it's for upper class Black folk and in that vein I agree 100% with the fact that Black folks with money need to support Black businesses whenever they can, hands down. On the other hand this book came off to me as insanely classist and condescending.

My personal take: I have some money now and try to always buy Black first--that part of me agreed with her enthusiasm and was behind her call to action. But I also grew up broke as
Alana Benjamin
I read so many articles about this experiment and the book fell flat for me.

I really enjoyed the history of expansion and decline of 'buy black' movements over the years as well as the statistics on African American businesses and how our contribution can aid or detract from the cause. However, these interesting details were sometimes repetitive, confusing and overshadowed by mundane details.

I didn't appreciate her tone or manner of describing some of the businesses that she patronised. I
Aug 09, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Maggie Anderson's Our Black Year is a thought provoking book about self-help economics to support black owned businesses. Her year of patronizing black owned businesses showed how much progress could be made if capable black house holds followed her family's lead.

What stood out was my position as a conscious consumer. I understood that the only business consistently patronized is the barbershop. Our Black Year Highlighted what could happen if that included just one more business like a black
Nov 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a fantastic read about a very important subject! Ms. Anderson manages to focus her laser-like research on the complex and compelling disenfranchisement of Black businesses, despite the enormous Black buying power.
A call to arms to the Black middle class for 'conscious consumerism' and a must read on how to harness the enormous Black buying power - one purchase at a time!
Thorn MotherIssues
Interesting and an easy read, though frustrating in certain ways. I mean, it took her 11 months to find Carol's Daughter??? (On the other hand, she routinely name-drops a brand that's owned by a friend of ours, which I did like even though it was obtrusive.) I do think it's going to push me to be more proactive in buying local, buying black, buying gay, just buying mindfully.
Oct 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The author is coming to speak at Iowa State and the Black Graduate Student Association is using this book as our fall read. We are excited to meet her!
An Oak Park family embarks on a yearlong "Empowerment Project" to only buy from Black owned businesses - an overwhelming challenge.
Jesse Rhines
Oct 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: black-stuff
When on a Black Chicago radio program John and Maggie Anderson asked the audience, “Should Black people do more to support Black Business” they were shocked that the answer was a resounding, “No bleeping way!” from all but a single caller. One scholar concluded that Blacks “don’t see Black empowerment as a positive step…” but as a “denigration and denial of their status as ‘equal’…” The Andersons, John a Harvard economics AB and an MBA, Maggie an MBA/JD and one of Barak Obama’s former students, ...more
I have a soft spot for stunt non-fiction. In Our Black year, Maggie Anderson set the deceptively simple task of shopping for black-owned stores only. Despite living in Chicago, there were few such business and then some of them went out of business.

The language could sometimes get heavy on economic jargon. There was a lot of information about her mother's struggle with pancreatic cancer.

Her struggle to support black businesses was inspiring. It was also important in that she discusses the poor
Jun 06, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good reminder that the Black community does not do enough to support and strengthen ourselves! I found this to be an invigorating book. Yes, Anderson does repeat herself unnecessarily sometimes, but I think she is a first time writer, correct? The story of her family's struggle to fully "Buy Black " fascinated me because I have never considered the full dynamics of the position. she moved me to sit down and think it through. In Prince George's County, MD, one of the richest majority Black ...more
Liz De Coster
Sep 25, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, ebook
An interesting example of the burgeoning one-year personal-sociology experiment literature. I was much more interested in Anderson's discussions of the structural issues facing Black-owned businesses, entrepreneurs, and wealth-building than in the personal aspects of the story.
Feb 03, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love the topic but the book got very tedious and what felt like repetitive after a hundred or so pages. The book could have a little more tightly edited but I like Maggie's voice.
Shalon Montgomery
Clear, concise and well written. Her challenges, internal conflicts and sentiment jumped of the page. Midway through I was like this should have been an essay not a 300+ page book, however 100 or so pages are the epilogue, acknowledgements and appendix, which in the long run will be the strength of this book for me and others.

I don't think Maggie comes off completely prestigious; just someone who is used to certain standards. Which comes with age and life experiences. She doesn't talk enough
Aug 01, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Let me start here: I don't think Anderson is a racist, and I don't think her experiment is racist either. But while I generally like books describing somebody's year trying out a lifestyle experiment, this one was not my cup of tea.

The premise is basically a good one: In the interest of economic empowerment for the black community, black Americans should support black-owned American businesses. So the Anderson family will spend 12 months buying exclusively from black-owned businesses.

However, I
Aug 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
This book was perfect for me because I literally wrote in my journal earlier this year that I wanted to buy black and read black. I was sold on the book before I finished it and I enjoyed this book thoroughly.

While some of the statements made by Anderson came off as condescending and while I didn’t think it was so altruistic that she quit her job and made the experiment her “job”, none of that negates what a good book this is. You can feel her disappointments, frustration, excitement and
Eddie S.
My two cents: Although at times they come off as snobby and pompous to the point of prudes, they are black first. They genuinely want to see African-American's build a strong economic base that rivals other P.O.C. communities. Imagine spending a year of your life, really putting your heart and soul into improving the lives of struggling black business owners, only to be disappointed by the common excuses you hear from certain black people. It really taught me a lot about business in general and ...more
Larkin Tackett
Jul 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the powerful story of Maggie and John Anderson, a professionally successful African American couple who walked the talk of Black self-empowerment by buying from only Black-owned businesses for an entire year. Their experiment became the Empowerment Experiment Foundation (changed from the Ebony Experiment after the magazine sued for copyright infringement and backed away from the project) with a mission "to study and facilitate economic development in underserved African American ...more
Feb 11, 2020 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I’ve heard a lot about this book over the years and I was excited to read it. However, I was so disappointed. The author is condescending and demeaning. I found it impossible to finish. She trashes other African Americans that she had issues with while working on the project and spends considerable time looking down on the people in the communities she visits. At one point she says she visited a store she believed was black owned but as she walked around it and saw how clean and organized it was ...more
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