Franchise: The Golden Arches in Black America
(Liveright, 2020) by Marcia Chatelain is a fascinating examination of the relationship between the fast-food industry, Black business owners, and the communities where they set up franchises after the Holy Week Uprisings of 1968.
Using McDonalds as a “prism” to study the expansion of the fast-food industry and the effects of Black capitalism, Franchise
tells a complex origins story about Black franchisees and their reception in Black communities across the nation in Atlanta, Chicago, Portland, Cleveland, and Los Angeles after the classical phase of the Civil Rights Movement.
Chatelain ultimately exposes the limits of Black entrepreneurship to supplant state responsibility to create socially and economically reparative conditions in Black communities, while demonstrating how a range of progressive Black politicians and activists came to support Black entrepreneurship as a solution to widespread federal and municipal disinvestment from Black communities.
As Black franchise owners assisted the development of McDonalds into a wealthy and successful national brand, they also encountered glass-ceilings and discriminatory practices within McDonalds corporate and the larger business world despite their tremendous success compared to white counterparts. Chatelain traces these tensions and interconnections across political, business, and community stakeholders to explain how fast-food franchises ingratiated themselves into Black communities, while exasperating inequalities in Black America.
teaches readers to be skeptical of corporate or market-driven solutions whether articulated as Black capitalism or “empowerment,” especially during and after moments of Black uprising.
is a scholar, speaker, and strategist based in Washington, D.C. She teaches courses in African American life and culture at Georgetown University.
Amanda Joyce Hall is a Ph.D. Candidate in History and African American Studies at Yale University. She is writing an international history on the grassroots movement against South African apartheid during the 1970s and 1980s. She tweets from @amandajoycehall