Polaroid Revolutionary Workers Movement

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Duration: 1970-1977
Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States

The Polaroid Revolutionary Workers Movement (PRWM) was formed in 1970 by two African American Polaroid employees, Ken Williams and Caroline Hunter, when they discovered that the company's products were being used by the South African government to create photographs for the hated passbooks that all Africans were required to carry. The PRWM demanded that the company stop all sales to South Africa until the end of apartheid. The company responded by sending a delegation to South Africa that recommended what became the "Polaroid Experiment." The company banned all sales to the government, including the military and police, and promised to raise wages and increase job training at its distributors. The plan was announced in the U.S. in full-page advertisements in major daily newspapers and 20 black weekly papers. The plan did not pacify the PRWM, and, in 1971, Hunter testified before the United Nations advocating a boycott of Polaroid products. Polaroid fired both Hunter and Williams. As a result of the protests, a community group in Boston donated $10,000 it has received from Polaroid to South African liberation movements. In 1977 it became public that Polaroid film was being sold by the distributor Frank and Hirsch to the South African government for use in the "passbook," in violation of Polaroid's policy. As a result, Polaroid ended its relationship with its distributor and all direct sales to South Africa.