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Franchise: The Golden Arches in Black America

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  482 ratings  ·  109 reviews
Often blamed for the rising rates of obesity and diabetes among black Americans, fast food restaurants like McDonald’s have long symbolized capitalism’s villainous effects on our nation’s most vulnerable communities. But how did fast food restaurants so thoroughly saturate black neighborhoods in the first place? In Franchise, acclaimed historian Marcia Chatelain uncovers a ...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published January 7th 2020 by Liveright
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Average rating 3.95  · 
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Jan 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Essential and necessary book in finally telling the history of black capitalism. Using The Macdonald’s franchise as a point of tension between capitalism, community spaces, and civil rights. There are so many things to think about in here and chatelain never leaves her grip on the helm as a careful and thoughtful historian. I learned a lot and I appreciate this great book!
Jan 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a must read for anyone thinking about becoming a franchisee for any fast food company in a black or brown neighborhood. Many times, black capitalism is preached and pushed onto African Americans as a way to set us free. This book confirms that this will not solve anything because the systematic structures full of racism will still hurt us. The author also gives us a history lesson on McDonald's and the black community. How some of our great leaders and organizations made deals with franc ...more
Dec 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
4.5 ⭐️s

I rounded up bc I learned a lot reading this book.

Chatelain delves deep into the relationship between McDonald’s Franchise system & Black America. The book focuses less on health disparities (as in 0) and more on black capitalism, strategic advertising, and the McDonald’s used its Black Franchisees as a means to falsely promote and uplift Black capitalism + culture.

I feel like this is a great starting point to the subject in general. Written very clearly. Sometimes I felt like Chatelain
Joshunda Sanders
Franchise is a searing and incisive look at the consequences of a successful pairing of black capitalism with the rise of fast food franchising. It is a sweeping history of the fight for black franchisees of McDonald's, the largest fast food chain in the world, to be heard by the corporation, but Franchise also looks at how government funding for Empowerment Zones and other tax-free activity for businesses have enabled the spread of fast food joints in low income neighborhoods; how the spread of ...more
Marian P
Jan 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Marcia Chatelain, an associate professor of history and African American Studies at Georgetown University, has written a powerful book, Franchise: The Golden Arches in Black America that examines the unknown history of the civil rights movement and the expansion of the fast food franchising phenomena in black communities across America. The book largely uses McDonald’s as a window into the franchising of fast-food restaurants. The book fills a conspicuous gap in the historiography on McDonald’s, ...more
Athan Tolis
Mar 02, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: business, history
I enjoyed reading this. The author admits in the Acknowledgements that she essentially grew up at McDonalds. If you want the story of how fast food, and McDonalds in particular, came of age inside the black neighborhoods of America, look no further, you’ve picked up the right book, written by the right author.

Or have you?

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
Sarah Critchley
Jun 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was one of the most frustrating books to read as an audiobook - I really wanted to be underlining, annotating, and be able to flip back to certain pages. Also, the audiobook didn't have the list of sources or acknowledgements! That said, it is a fantastic book. This book questions why the relationship between black communities and fast food restaurants is only explored superficially and on a health-basis, instead of questioning the history of black capitalism and the ways that franchised re ...more
Steve Peifer
Feb 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a book that works on so many levels. I read with shame for being clueless about what people of color went through trying, among many other things, to find a restaurant that would feed them. It shows that fast food welcomed African Americans not out of the goodness of their hearts but because there was money to be made.

It goes deep into the intersection between racism and capitalism that will make you think long after the book is over. My two favorite quotes:

Decades of failed attempts to
Jan 09, 2021 rated it liked it
This very rich delve into the history of fast food viewed through the lens of the black community frequently reads more like a university press publication than something for popular consumption. From a content perspective, that's an asset.

But I imagine limiting the scope of the book was a difficult thing to do. We start with the ascent of fast food franchises in segregated America and quickly transition into the civil rights era – boycotts, lawsuits, and decades of pressure from black communiti
Ken Lindholm
Feb 05, 2021 rated it really liked it
Franchise caught my attention because it is the only book of which I am aware that focuses on the relationship between one specific business McDonalds and the Civil Rights movement. The author Marcia Chatelaine is an very good writer who is able to provide substantial detail wrapped in an entertaining, narrative style. In addition, I found many significant developments take place in my hometown Chicago area (where both the McDonalds headquarters resides and where the author grew up). Even the fi ...more
Sep 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
I did not know the relationship between McDonalds the African American community. The author starts in Ferguson MI where McDonalds was seen as a bright spot during protests. But they were also blamed for fattening up poor neighborhoods and keeping out better nutrition. The author began looking into the history of the relationship. In the 60s, McDonalds looked at moving into lower income neighborhoods when unrest and businesses were leaving. They encouraged Black ownership and provided affordable ...more
Mar 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Marcia Chatelain’s Franchise contributes to the literature on capitalism and black America by focusing on McDonalds and its relationship with black, inner city neighborhoods. Beginning with the rise of fast food restaurants and the transition to the franchise model in the mid twentieth century, Chatelain demonstrates that food access has a long, racialized history. Drawing on McDonalds’ corporate records, Chatelain argues that the holy week uprisings prompted McDonalds to accelerate efforts to r ...more
Sep 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020-read, audiobooks
“Fast food is a prism for understanding race, shifts in the movement for civil rights, the dissemination of black culture, and racial capitalism—the deep connections between the development of modern capitalism and racist subjugation and oppression—since the 1960s.”

I heard an interview with the author on Fresh Air and I'm glad it drew my attention to this book, which looks at the history of fast food franchise ownership (specifically McDonald's but other corporations are occasionally mentioned)
Feb 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: u-s-society
Incredibly detailed as the book weaves McDonalds and civil rights history.

Portrays “Capitalism’s ability to satisfy some of our most personal needs while starving our collective present and future.”

“Attempts to revolutionize the food system must begin with the history of the ways communities have been sold the idea of fast food as a practical solution. We all must remain vigilant in the places that the industry appears: [schools, worship, sports, hospitals, scholarships, MLK day, children’s pl
Jan 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Never made all of the connections that Dr. Chatelain does here in telling the complex and intertwined history of fast food and African American entrepreneurs. As the author gave a memorable talk at our university a few years ago, I knew it would be well written, drily funny at times, and piercing in its assessment of the structural racism permeating the American experience for so many. Well done!
Susan Grodsky
Aug 23, 2020 rated it liked it
Interesting topic. Blacks, especially black men, are faithful and frequent patrons of McDonald’s. Beginning in the late 1960s (the disturbances following King’s assassination were a catalyst) McDonald’s sought out black franchisees. How did that effort work out? Was it good or bad for black America?

Really interesting questions. The author, a historian by training, has researched the topic from top to bottom.

But this publication seems more like a first draft than a ready-to-print book. There are
Cole Green
Sep 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
Very interesting look at the relationship between black capitalism and the fast food industry. I really liked the chapter on advertising.
Melissa Watton
Jul 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Best book I’ve read in 2020 so far. Chatelain unpacks how the fast food industry capitalized on the Civil Rights struggle since the late 1960s in order to ingratiate itself with community leaders and influential figures in Black America especially during a time when white flight was occurring both residentially and commercially. By utilizing black franchisees as buffers and promoting black capitalism as the way forward for systemically impoverished and struggling Black communities, McDonalds mad ...more
Renee Ryberg
Feb 15, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
This was a struggle to get through, and I think the author loses the forest for the trees. But, it’s on a very interesting topic and presents a compelling argument that fast food has replaced the role of the government (in some cases assisted by the government to do so) in Black communities.
Colleen Flaherty
Sep 08, 2020 rated it liked it
The topic is fascinating and goes in unexpected places. However, it was a fairly academic and dry read, and also left me with more questions than answers (although maybe that’s a point in the book’s favor).
May 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is one of those books that I didn't know I needed to read until I saw it on the shelf and realized 'I don't know anything about this topic.' So I picked it up and let me tell you, I REALLY didn't know anything about this topic.

Chatelain offers an incredibly in-depth timeline starting from the point McDonalds was founded and continuing on to the present day. She grapples with the difficult questions that have plagued many predominantly Black neighborhoods and the fast food franchises that se
Julie Cardinal
Jan 12, 2021 rated it it was amazing
With the attempted coup going on and everything, I’m having a hard time focusing on non-fiction, still, it is one of my favorite genres and this book did not disappoint. Chatelain explores the complex relationship between the Black community and McDonald’s. Chock full of really interesting history and perfect analysis.
Trevor Seigler
Mar 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
On the surface, race and fast food don't seem to intersect much in our national history. But in this insightful and illuminating history of McDonald's and its interactions with the black community of America, Marcia Chatelain exposes the ways in which fast food has interacted with the minority community of America. Sold to the civil-rights movement as "black capitalism," meaning investments in the community, franchises were set up in underprivileged neighborhoods throughout the country in the Si ...more
Mar 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library
Ms. Chatelain sells herself short in the title of the book which is not confined to only the history of McDonalds and the black community. Ms. Chatelain gives the reader a history of the rise of franchises, the pros and cons of those ventures, and also the founding of McDonalds. She then follows up with a history of how McDonalds interacted with the black community, as customers, employees, allies, and franchisees. I kept expecting to find a cohesive sentence that announced whether the relations ...more
Feb 16, 2020 rated it liked it
This was a little drier than I wanted, but still illuminating. It covers the history of McDonald's as we know it today, and expands out to the black franchise owners in the 1960s to the myth and man La-Van Hawkins and finishes, briefly, by touching on the Fight For $15 protests of the early 2010s. The struggle for civil rights, and community-owned spaces, is woven throughout.

I enjoyed the personal stories more than anything, and wish there had been more of them. I appreciate the amount of resear
Feb 17, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: adult-nonfiction
Chatelain's book is a history lesson on the intersection of fast food as a business (specifically McDonald's), and the black community. It is informative and moves along at a steady pace. However, I am far more intrigued by the implications of this history lesson. In her introduction and conclusion, Chatelain makes it clear that before any food justice warriors start plotting community gardens, they are going to need to master this history lesson. The placement and the purpose of fast food resta ...more
Feb 17, 2020 rated it liked it
It wasn't until the very last chapter that the author put together the purpose of the book. And as the book progressed, the book morphed from one about the Golden Arches to one more generally about the fast-food restaurants. The tale is a sad one and the poor socio-economic areas deserve many more food options. ...more
Jul 12, 2020 rated it liked it
I really enjoyed this interesting look at the history of race within McDonalds.

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the history of fast-food or Black Entrepreneurship. If you are looking to study McDonalds specifically this book still has value, but I would suggest reading Grinding it Out first.
Sep 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
With all the McDonalds bashing out there, the Golden Arches still holds a warm place (like their baked apple pie) in many people's hearts.

The author nostalgically reminisces about her times growing up eating McDonalds as a kid. And by the time she was in high school she said "I would go to a McDonald's in downtown Chicago that was deocrated with portraits of black history makers and prints from black painters and visual artists before I took an hour-long train-and-bus commute home. In my financ
Dec 12, 2020 rated it liked it
Amidst the social upheaval of 2020, and at a time when our nation is engaged in self-examination when it comes to issues of race relations and justice, Chatelain's book adds yet another perspective on our history and ongoing challenges as a country. The book examines the history of fast food franchising in the United States, which began right at the conclusion of WWII, and which was largely supported by, and marketed to, black people. Franchises themselves were the product of wealthy white peopl ...more
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Marcia Chatelain is a Provost’s Distinguished Associate Professor of History and African American Studies at Georgetown University. Previously, she was the Reach for Excellence Assistant Professor of Honors and African American Studies at the University of Oklahoma’s Honors College. After graduating the University of Missouri in 2001, Chatelain worked in Washington, D.C. as the Resident Scholar at ...more

Articles featuring this book

Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “We are not makers of history. We are made by history.” So, this January, as we celebrate Martin Luther King...
71 likes · 17 comments
“Fast food is a prism for understanding race, shifts in the movement for civil rights, the dissemination of black culture, and racial capitalism—the deep connections between the development of modern capitalism and racist subjugation and oppression—since the 1960s.” 0 likes
“Ultimately, history encourages us to be more compassionate toward individuals navigating few choices, and history cautions us to be far more critical of the institutions and structures that have the power to take choices away.” 0 likes
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