Franchise: The Golden Arches in Black America

Liveright: Norton. Jan. 2020. 336p. illus. notes. index. ISBN 9781631493942. $28.95Tr ebk. ISBN 9781631493959. BUS
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.

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