Chapter 3: The Burger Boycott and the Ballot Box


The Summer of 1968 marked a dangerous time immediately after MLK’s assassination – racial tensions were high throughout the United States, and Mayor Stokes’ main goal was to avoid further riots in Cleveland, Ohio. White and Black businesses had been destroyed by the riots, and Cleveland needed something new to take root and provide new opportunities for the Black community. Fortunately, McDonalds reached Cleveland and provided needed jobs, affordable meals, and economic growth for the city – except who was being allowed to be involved in this growth? 

While gaining McDonalds franchises throughout Cleveland provided many new opportunities in the White and Black communities throughout the city, Black individuals (such as Hilliard) attempted to purchase a franchise only be subjected to endless hoops and barriers. Hilliard worked hard to push through and lead a path for Black professionals towards this financial leadership and prosperity only to be killed one evening. Afterwards boycotts grew as OBU fought to gain an even footing so Black business people were allowed to purchase McDonalds franchises. Negotiations throughout the boycotts fought through difficult opposition at each stage – OBU demanded McDonalds give fiscal donations to enrich the Black community (which they refused), and McDonalds accused OBU of using the boycotts to lower the cost of purchasing a McDonalds franchise. Finding a resolution to the boycott negotiations was not an easy feat, and compromise was a definite necessity, but was eventually reached. While the Black community had hoped to achieve more equal opportunities in the McDonalds franchise, it became the better option to accept what was possible and try to work with what McDonalds was willing to give. As it was said towards the end of this chapter: why not get what they could out of McDonalds?