Franchise: The Golden Arches in Black America

by Les Payne

Library Journal While other fast food companies make appearances, the primary focus of this book by Chatelain (history, African American Studies, Georgetown Univ.; South Side Girls) is the role of McDonald's in African American communities. The author describes the black businessmen and women who ran early franchisees and looks at their relationships with the company. The roles of fast food restaurants as employers, nutritional battlegrounds, sites of community activism, and charitable contributors are thoroughly explored, though at times the writing lacks narrative focus to tie together the details. The strongest chapters touch on the relationship between the civil rights movement and fast food, including sit-ins and boycotts, as well as the reasons some activists promoted franchising opportunities for black business leaders. The well-written conclusion 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. VERDICT The book sticks close to its focus of franchising McDonald's restaurants among black communities in the 20th century, and covers the topic well. This niche subject may not have wide-ranging appeal, but the research is invaluable for those studying the intersections of race, economics, and business in the United States.—Sarah Schroeder, Univ. of Washington Bothell

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Book list The relationship between McDonald's, the undisputed champion in the fast food realm, and Black America has been complicated, even fraught. The company's marketing and outreach efforts have presented its business as responsive to the needs of Black communities contending with generational poverty and political disenfranchisement. Chatelain (South Side Girls, 2015) undercuts this narrative, however, by contextualizing, from an arguably Marxist perspective, the historical advantages that enabled McDonald's to rise above the competition, the charges of racist practices and exploitation that led Black communities to protest its presence in their neighborhoods, and its multigenerational campaign to repair its image, particularly in promoting Black franchises and supporting Black franchisees. But to what extend can African Americans participate in larger capitalist structures when they are so often derailed to protect the interests of predominantly white businesses? Furthermore, does economic stability necessarily translate into social and political power for Black communities? Chatelain doesn't flinch from addressing these difficult questions, and readers will be inspired to rethink the role of capitalism in black empowerment.--Parker Daniel Copyright 2020 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.

Library Journal The fast food industry, with a special emphasis on the McDonald's franchise, is the focus of this innovative approach to cultural history. In her first book, Chatelain (history and African American studies, Georgetown Univ.) uses the fast food industry as a prism through which to glean a richer, more nuanced understanding of the history of black America. This mix of business, politics, and race relations serves up moments of hope and disillusionment in the many characters that have a story to tell along with their order of burgers and fries. The audiobook is read excellently by Machelle Williams. This is a genuinely novel study that combines ideas of food justice with the subject of black history. VERDICT Overall, the book offers a fresh and rewarding history lesson for those looking for new insight into black history, and for an interesting take on the promises and failures of capitalism.—Denis Frias, Mississauga Lib. Syst., Ont.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus An exploration of the complicated role of fast-food restaurants in low-income black urban neighborhoods, with an emphasis on McDonald's.Though most of the book covers the 20th century, Chatelain (History and African American Studies/Georgetown Univ.; South Side Girls: Growing Up in the Great Migration, 2015) begins in August 2014, when a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, killed Michael Brown. The resulting unrestsome of it violent, some peaceful, all of it racially chargedtook place in and around a McDonald's location owned by a black businessman. "The Florissant Avenue McDonald's," writes the author, "was both an escape from the uprising and one of its targets." Chatelain characterizes her book, in part, as "the story of how McDonald's became black." She 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. Fast food is generally unhealthy and can certainly lead to obesity. Chatelain realizes that low-income blacks are regularly demonized by whites for making poor nutritional choices. However, as she clearly explains, those apparent "choices" are not often real choices because residents lack access to supermarkets stocking healthy food offerings or eateries offering healthy, affordable menu items. "Today, fast-food restaurants are hyperconcentrated in the places that are the poorest and most racially segregated." As McDonald's became the dominant fast-food chain across the country, the white management began awarding franchises to black businesspeople. Almost never, however, did blacks receive locations in economically viable neighborhoods. Through case studies, with Cleveland as one extended example, Chatelain explores the relationships between black franchisees and black residents. In addition to nutritional value and the prices of menu items, the author also cogently examines franchisee support for neighborhood initiatives, such as breakfast feeding programs aimed at low-income children, financing of community centers, and the number of jobs, minimum wage or otherwise, for black residents. 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. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

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