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Dean of the College

Fast Food Civil Rights

Date: 4:30pm - 5:30pm PDT March 19 Location: Miller Hall 105

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    Dr. Marcia Chatelain, Associate Professor of History and African American Studies at Georgetown University
    Phil Humnicky/Georgetown Univ.

Miller Hall 105

There is no greater generator of black wealth in the United States than fast food franchising.  The days of black-owned funeral homes, insurance companies, and banks anchoring the central business district of the once labeled ‘colored sections’ of cities are long gone.  In their places: McDonalds, KFC, Taco Bell, and other fast food joints in the now simply segregated quarters of our cities, suburbs, and exurbs.  We think we know the story of what the presence and impact of fast food in communities of color means.  Poor people eat too much of it.  The jobs it provides pay too little.  Children are too enticed by it.  But, as the food revolution looks to eradicate trans fats from American diets and enthusiastic, do-gooders plant gardens in inner city schools, few have stopped to ask the most important question: How did we get here?  How did fast food outlets spread across the South Side of Chicago, the central core of Los Angeles, and the southeastern quadrant of Washington, D.C.?  How did a concept borne in the suburbs become a symbol of urban deficit—nutritional and economic? My current book project tells the story of black capitalists, civil rights leaders, and even radical nationalists who believed that their destiny rested with a set of golden arches. And it tells of an industry that blossomed at the very moment a freedom movement began to whither.  

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