Abstract: Business Responses to the Civil Rights Movement: A Public Relations Perspective

Karen Miller Russell and Margot Opdycke Lamme


During the 1950s and 1960s, civil rights protesters targeted businesses with demands for service, jobs, and equality. This paper considers public relations aspects of the Civil Rights movement for business by examining magazine, newspaper, and public relations trade press coverage to explore both strategies used in response to the movement and the role of public relations in devising and publicizing solutions. The analysis shows that business was slow to respond to the movement; that only mid-1960s riots drove business to take a public stand; that they used a variety of strategies, ranging from hiring and job training programs to resisting integration; and that professional public relations participation was minimal.