Georgetown University Scholar Looks at Impact of Fast Food on Black Neighborhoods

Marcia Chatelain, an associate professor of history at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., has received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to conduct further research into fast food’s impact on the African American community. The research will culminate with a book under contract with W.W. Norton & Company. The book has the tentative title of From Sit-In to Drive-Thru: Black America in the Age of Fast Food.

Dr. Chatelain recognizes that dependence on fast food in many Black neighborhoods has contributed to racial health disparities between Blacks and Whites. But she also notes that fast food franchises have provided many jobs in these communities and have provided scholarships for area youth and cultural events for the community.

Dr. Chatelain notes that African American fast-food entrepreneurs “funded civil rights initiatives and their stores served as a meeting place for Black children, senior citizens and voter registration drives. Unfortunately, these benefits came at a high price after fast food became the primary supplier of unhealthy fare and low-wage employment in the nation’s most impoverished areas.”

“While there is a significant scholarship on the history of Black business, no scholar has heretofore looked at the contributions of Black restaurant franchises in establishing philanthropies, shaping electoral politics and amassing Black wealth,” Dr. Chatelain adds.

Professor Chatelain’s previous book is South Side Girls: Growing Up in the Great Migration (Duke University Press, 2015). Dr. Chatelain is a graduate of the University of Missouri, where she majored in journalism and religious studies. She holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in American civilization from Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.

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