Brown alumnus wins Pulitzer Prize for studying McDonald’s franchises in black America

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PROVIDENCE, RI [Brown University] – Marcia Chatelain, Brown University alumnus won a Pulitzer Prize in the story for his book “Franchise: The Golden Arches in Black America,” a study of how McDonald’s restaurants have helped many black entrepreneurs but have harmed African Americans in other ways.

The Pulitzer Prize jury recognized Chatelain and other 2021 Prize winners in a virtual presentation on Friday, June 11. The board called Chatelain’s book “a nuanced account of the complicated role the fast food industry plays in African American communities.” [and] a portrait of race and capitalism that brilliantly illustrates how the struggle for civil rights has been intertwined with the plight of black businesses. “

Chatelain obtained a master’s and a doctorate. in American Civilization by Brown, graduating from the class of 2008. She graduated from the University of Missouri in 2001. Today, she is professor of history and African-American studies at Georgetown University.

In January 2020, the author told a National Public Raudio journalist that his book “really explores the relationship between black America and McDonald’s, to help us understand [that] where other parts of our society have failed, McDonald’s has unfortunately had to take over.

“Franchise,” she explained, explores the double-edged sword of the national fast food chain. African Americans are more likely to eat fast food than any other racial group in the United States, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control, in part because these restaurants are hyper-concentrated in some of the most disadvantaged areas. and the most isolated in the country. This may seem like bad news, given that countless studies have shown increased rates of obesity and heart disease in those who regularly eat at fast food restaurants. But for some black Americans, the possibility of owning a McDonald’s franchise has paved the way for financial independence and even wealth.

Chatelain said McDonald’s moved to low-income, heavily black neighborhoods as a result of racial unrest in American cities in the late 1960s and early 1970s. When white Americans left urban areas and settled down are installed in the suburbs, many stores have closed or moved. McDonald’s saw these empty storefronts as opportunities to open new franchises with low overhead, expand its customer base, and gain the trust of surrounding communities by installing local residents as owners.

“I think McDonald’s has provided an opportunity for some, to the detriment of far too many people … not just [because of] health effects, ”Chatelain told NPR. “I think whenever we have communities that have to rely on a business to be the place of refuge, to be the place of Wi-Fi, to be the sponsor of youth sports, to be the place where it takes place. the youth employment program, for university scholarships to flow, then we have a problem.

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