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Brantley’s new book considers consumer activism of late 20th century

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Andrea Molina
Staff Writer

Allyson Brantley, assistant professor of history, discussed the boycotts against the Coors Brewing Company since the 1970s, at a virtual book launch for her new book, “Brewing a Boycott: How a Grassroots Coalition Fought Coors and Remade American Consumer Activism.” 

More than 60 people attended the May 10 virtual event, which was organized by the department of history and political science and the honors program.

Brantley talked about the prominence of the Coors family and their brewing company, founded in 1873 by Prussian immigrant, Adolph Coors. She also discussed the role this family played in shaping conservative politics in the U.S., including in racial issues.

“I ended up stumbling into this project by reading a paragraph about Mexican Americans who were boycotting the Coors beer company in the 1960s,” Brantley said.  

She started research for the project while she was a graduate student at Yale.  

“My book tells what I believe is a really remarkable story of over half a century of these efforts to boycott Coors beer,” Brantley said. 

Among its achievements, the Coors Brewing Company successfully survived the Prohibition era, Brantley said. She said that for its first 100 years of existence, Coors beer was only marketed in the American West, making its product a novelty on the East Coast. 

Brantley said the boycott unfolded over two key contexts: the rapid expansion and industrialization of the American brewing industry over the 20th century and the fact that Colorado and the American West were becoming key breeding grounds for left-wing politics and activists, such as the Chicano movement. 

Brantley described her book as the story of how coalitions for social justice are made. 

The Coors boycott was a strikingly diverse boycott movement. Both women and men boycotted due to concerns of anti-unionism, she said. 

Brantley explained how gay activists, Chicanos and union members, along with college students, environmentalists, feminists and other progressive activists forged a solidarity with one another and changed the company through their long-standing pressure on the brewery. 

Together these activists built a lasting movement, one that extended over multiple decades, Brantley said. 

She said opposition to the company centered on three main issues: the company’s unwillingness to work with organized labor; Coors’ discrimination against Hispanics, African Americans, women, gays and lesbians; and Joseph Coors’ active support and funding of conservative politicians and organizations. 

Brantley said her book shows how boycotts can be a meaningful way of organizing and connecting with people, while having a lasting impact. 

“Ally’s book is a really fascinating account of the intersection between this family’s exceptional history in the brewery industry and the social inequalities present at the time,” said Raul Pérez, assistant professor of sociology. 

Pérez encouraged everyone in the audience to get their copy, as he believes these events play a major role in American history. 

Brantley’s new book can be found in bookstores, and it is also available on Amazon. 

Andrea Molina can be reached at andrea.molinamartinez@laverne.edu.

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