White Burgers, Black Cash: Fast Food from Black Exclusion to Exploitation

White Burgers, Black Cash: Fast Food from Black Exclusion to Exploitation

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The long and pernicious relationship between fast food restaurants and the African American community

Today, fast food is disproportionately located in Black neighborhoods and marketed to Black Americans through targeted advertising. But throughout much of the twentieth century, fast food was developed specifically for White urban and suburban customers, purposefully avoiding Black spaces. In 
White Burgers, Black Cash, Naa Oyo A. Kwate traces the evolution in fast food from the early 1900s to the present, from its long history of racist exclusion to its current damaging embrace of urban Black communities.

Fast food has historically been tied to the country’s self-image as the land of opportunity and is marketed as one of life’s simple pleasures, but a more insidious history lies at the industry’s core. White Burgers, Black Cash investigates the complex trajectory of restaurant locations from a decided commitment to Whiteness to the disproportionate densities that characterize Black communities today. Kwate expansively charts fast food’s racial and spatial transformation and centers the cities of Chicago, New York City, and Washington, D.C., in a national examination of the biggest brands of today, including White Castle, KFC, Burger King, McDonald’s, and more.

Deeply researched, grippingly told, and brimming with surprising details, White Burgers, Black Cash reveals the inequalities embedded in the closest thing Americans have to a national meal.


"White Burgers, Black Cash is a must read for anyone interested in the politics of food, racial identity, and belonging. Naa Oyo A. Kwate weaves a narrative that dissects Black exploitation, corporations, and socioeconomic divides in communities to help us better understand the timeline of American fast food restaurants, from exclusionary whiteness to the present. You’ll see fast food well beyond its place as a basic quintessential American meal."—Christina Greer, author of Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream

"White Burgers, Black Cash comes crashing through everything you thought you knew about fast food to land as the definitive history of how this industry has become so entrenched in Black communities. Built on a staggering body of evidence, this riveting and accessible exploration of fast food’s troubled racial transformation is necessary reading for anyone concerned about inequitable food environments. A masterpiece."—Bryant Terry, James Beard and NAACP Image Award-winning editor of Black Food: Stories, Art, and Recipes from Across the African Diaspora

About the Author

Naa Oyo A. Kwate is associate professor of Africana studies and human ecology at Rutgers. She is author of Burgers in Blackface: Anti-Black Restaurants Then and Now (Minnesota, 2019) and editor of The Street: A Photographic Field Guide to American Inequality.

Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ University of Minnesota Press (April 11, 2023)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 472 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1517911095
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1517911096
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 2.5 pounds
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 7 x 1.6 x 9 inches

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