Grace Elizabeth Hale: When Jim Crow Drank Coke

tags: NYT, Jim Crow, Coca-Cola, soft drinks, Atlanta, Grace Elizabeth Hale



Grace Elizabeth Hale, a professor of history and American studies at the University of Virginia, is the author, most recently, of “A Nation of Outsiders: How the White Middle Class Fell in Love With Rebellion in Postwar America.”

THE opposition by the New York State chapter of the N.A.A.C.P. to Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s restrictions on sugary soda caught many Americans by surprise. But it shouldn’t: though the organization argues it is standing up for consumer choice and minority business owners, who it claims would be hurt, this is also a favor for a stalwart ally — Coca-Cola alone has given generously to support N.A.A.C.P. initiatives over the years.

This is more than a story of mutual back-scratching, though. It is the latest episode in the long and often fractious history of soft drinks, prohibition laws and race.

While it is widely known that John Pemberton, an Atlanta pharmacist, invented Coke as a kind of patent medicine, it was in fact his second drink. His first, an 1884 invention called French Wine Coca, was a copy of a popular French wine that contained cocaine. But in November 1885, just as the product began to sell, Atlanta outlawed alcohol sales....




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