From Publishers Weekly
Wall Street Journal
writer Capparell (author of the leadership book Shackleton
) recounts the struggles of 12 of the first black executives hired by any leading U.S. business in this worthwhile but plodding account. They got their break when Pepsi-Cola CEO Walter S. Mack, who was facing an uphill battle against Coke, decided that tapping the "Negro market" would help Pepsi win. He hired Edward F. Boyd, a sometime actor, to create a team of salesmen to push Pepsi-Cola with black customers. The team quickly became community role models, feted in magazines like Jet
, while Coke enthusiastically backed Georgia's racist governor Herman Talmadge. As a result, Pepsi earned a reputation as the "liberal" soft drink, capturing the lion's share of the cola market among African-Americans. But after Mack fell to a corporate shakeup in 1951, the effort was disbanded. One member of Boyd's team, despite years of success at Pepsi and an M.B.A. from the University of Chicago, later had to take a job mopping floors to support his family. Readers may wish the writing were more adept, yet this account makes clear the incredible barriers to black achievement that existed just half a century ago. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Imagine the state of race relations in segregated America in 1946. Capparell, a journalist, describes the remarkable decision by the Pepsi Company to hire 12 black persons as upper-level salespeople to develop the black market. The team operated for more than four years, and in soliciting blacks everywhere, they surpassed their profit goals. Generating profits was their sole purpose. However, this is also a story of unintended consequences, including introducing diversity into corporate America, revolutionizing the strategies of niche marketing, featuring black actors in ads, and identifying blacks as an important consumer segment. Capparell extensively interviewed the six living members of that team formed 60 years ago who were genuine pioneers in overcoming prejudice within a large corporation and dealing with Jim Crow laws of segregation while traveling. This is a snapshot in time, with its profit successes but also its failures. Although it did not change the business world, it set the stage for ambitious black executives who followed them. Mary WhaleyCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved