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Franchise: The Golden Arches in Black America Paperback – January 19, 2021
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― Jennifer Szalai, New York Times, "Times Critics Best Books of 2020"
"An impeccably researched examination of McDonald’s and how the franchise was once intended as a path to economic freedom in Black communities. A fascinating, overlooked perspective on a US institution."
― Karla Strand, Ms. Magazine
"Well-written... Emphasizes how today’s conversations around fast food in America were shaped by government policies, and examines how the fast-food industry is connected to Black Lives Matter and other social change movements.... Invaluable for those studying the intersections of race, economics, and business in the United States."
― Sarah Schroeder, Library Journal
"Chatelain makes a convincing case that racial tension, the civil rights movement, and fast food all combined to change the dynamic of mostly black communities ignored by white power structures. Chatelain’s impressive research and her insertion of editorial commentary will prove educational and enlightening for readers of all backgrounds. An eye-opening and unique history lesson."
― Kirkus Reviews
"Franchise is a stunning story of post-1960s urban black America, a tale of triumph and good intentions, but also of tragic consequences for race relations, poverty, and dietary health. Marcia Chatelain has done superb research and writes as a great storyteller. This is an important book, showing that civil rights successes led to burgers under black ownership as much as ballots for social change. Chatelain makes us see black capitalism in all its mixed blessings."
― David W. Blight, Yale University, and author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom
"Thanks to Marcia Chatelain, I’ll never look at fast food the same way. She pairs burgers and fries with civil rights and black wealth, showing readers exactly what ‘opportunity’ in America really looks like."
― Alexis Coe, author of You Never Forget Your First: A Biography of George Washington
"Marcia Chatelain uses the complex interrelationship of black communities with McDonald’s to explore the history of American racism and the struggle for civil rights. Franchise is an eye-opener for anyone who cares about why diet-related chronic disease is more prevalent in these communities and what it is really like to be black in America."
― Marion Nestle, professor of nutrition, food studies, and public health at New York University, emerita, and author of Food Politics
About the Author
- Publisher : Liveright (January 19, 2021)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 336 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1631498703
- ISBN-13 : 978-1631498701
- Item Weight : 9.2 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.5 x 0.9 x 8.2 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #46,268 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
About the author
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On the plus side, you get the history of all boycotts, profiles of several franchisees, the role played by all prominent leaders of the civil rights movement, the victories and the price of the victories.
The author takes you from what she calls “Genesis” in St. Bernardino, CA, all the way to the present time, via the speech Martin Luther King gave days before his assassination regarding how “civil rights” should give their place to “silver rights” the very same year as Herman Petty opened the first black-owned McDonalds’ franchise.
You get chapter and verse on
• the Hough Uprising as a preamble to Operation Black Unity’s McDonald’s boycott in mayor Carl Stokes’ Cleveland,
• the Black Panthers’ alleged blackmailing of white franchisee Al Laviske’s to contribute to their Free Breakfast for Schoolchildren in the Albina neighborhood of Portland, Oregon, which ended up with riots and bombing
• the Ogontz Neighbor Association’s resistance to the establishment of a white-owned McDonalds’ restaurant in 1970 North Philadelphia
but also on the extension of Hamburger University to the South Side of Chicago, the successful efforts of the National Black McDonald’s Operators Association to bring ownership of franchises to black businessmen, the ingenuity of Tom Burrell in promoting McDonalds to a black audience and the irony in (racist) Nixon’s “bridges to human dignity” speech, which hardly differed in message from the tropes emanating from Jessie Jackson and Louis Farrakhan, if not from the admonishments issued by George Schuyler (p. 150)
Ultimately, however, the book lacks a clear message. The history is there, and this is a great place to read it, but should somebody ask me “what was the main idea of this book?” or “what do you think prompted the author to write this history?” I would be at a loss.
Most importantly, I did not get a sense of whether the author believes the Golden Arches were a force for good or not.
I thought the concluding chapter, the one where Marcia Chatelain gets a chance to reflect, would at the very least mention that from 2012 to 2015 McDonalds would have in Don Thompson its first black CEO. Not that this would erase a history of racism, not that everything is best in this best of possible worlds, but that hard work and determination is still helping black America reach milestone after milestone on a voyage that started with slavery and will eventually lead to full equality. Instead, I got some Naomi Klein mumbo jumbo.
That was very disappointing.
Ms. Chatelain shows how pushback came not only from blacks but also whites. The Jim Crow South was especially stubborn in not allowing African Americans full or even minor access to their restaurants. Readers will get a broader understanding of the frustrations and danger that blacks faced on a daily basis. ‘Franchise’ addresses such things as black urban poverty and the hopes of empowerment for blacks in owning fast-food businesses; blacks’ segregation from prosperity; the effectiveness of demonstrations; changing demographics; discrimination within corporate America; feeble government black urban programs that were simply window dressing and political photo opportunities; the various perspectives of racial justice; economic disenfranchisement; environmental activism; community control; housing and business discrimination; black nationalism shooting itself in the foot; tokenism; and health concerns. The author highlights episodes in Chicago, Cleveland, Pine Bluff (Arkansas), Portland (Oregon), Philadelphia, and Los Angeles. Street gangs and community activism play pronounced roles in the destitute urban zones mentioned. Opening up a McDonald’s in some of these areas required a tremendous work ethic, political savvy, and brass balls the size of those inflatable bouncy seats. ‘Franchise’ shows McDonald’s as well as the rest of the fast food industry adapted with mixed results as blacks attained more civil rights and began demanding much warranted attention about their generations of oppression and neglect.
‘Franchise’ is solid balanced reporting. Ms. Chatelain presents persuasive arguments on both sides of the numerous debates in the book. Much like sexual hanky-panky, she aptly writes, “Fast food is about more than just food. Consumers make marketplace choices based on a constellation of emotions, past experiences, memories, desires, and actual hunger.” While McDonald’s is at the center of the discussion about relations with African-American communities, ‘Franchise’ makes solid points about the broader factors causing such strong black reactions. Racial stereotypes, racism, and urban neglect are at the core of the book. Black urban poverty is still very much with us today and, despite all the gasbag politicians’ celebrating otherwise, fast food joints are not the capitalistic panacea for correcting generations of urban segregation and prejudice. They are simply a crumb in the bucket of KFC chicken.