When Corporations Celebrate Black History Month

In the post holiday sales slump that usually follows New Year’s Day, retailers will honor holidays  in hopes of boosting revenue.

While adjusting their products and services to commemorate Black History Month, some companies have decided to take it seriously, others have taken it too far, and others haven’t taken it far enough.

BlackEnterprise.com’s Renita Burns and Marcia A. Wade decided to rate the efforts of corporations who have incorporated Black History Month promotions and products on a scale of one to five. A rating of five represents a respectable, well-organized, educational promotion, and a rating of one signifies an insufficient effort in honoring the month’s legacy and purpose.

Let us know if you agree or disagree.


American Airlines sponsored a double header movie night on Feb. 21 and will do it again on Feb. 28 at the American Airlines C.R. Smith Museum based in Fort Worth, Texas. The two movies, The Tuskegee Airmen, starring Laurence Fishburne, Cuba Gooding, Jr., and Malcolm Jamal Warner and the documentary Nightfighters, the True Story of the 332nd Fighter Group, will be shown in the museum’s main theater.

The museum will also display a photography exhibit that focuses on African-American cockpit and cabin crews who worked for American Airlines. Additionally, the exhibit will display photos of Sammy Davis Jr., Jackie Robinson, and Eartha Kitt stepping off American Airlines’ planes.

Marcia’s rating: 2

American Airlines’ self-adulating promotion posing as black history recognition barely gets off the ground. Using posthumous “endorsements” from celebrities seems inappropriate and is definitely uninformative. Of course, celebrities flew on airplanes in the past. It is hardly black history that sometimes they chose to fly American. The rewards go to the filmmakers and movie studios that chose to produce movies about the Tuskegee Airmen, not the C.R. Smith Museum. It doesn’t take much effort to pop in a DVD and call it black history.

Yes, it is wonderful that the photo exhibit acknowledges the accomplishments of Joan Dorsey and Dave Harris, who might possibly be the first black flight attendant and pilot to fly for a major airline, but what about their struggle, and why is this exhibit limited to this museum? Their exhibit would be more substantive if they also featured Marlon Green, who flew for Continental Airlines and not American, but who won the 1963 U.S. Supreme Court Case that opened the door for Harris. Green, Harris or other older members of the Organization of Black Airline Pilots could have come out to lecture about the difficulties they had trying to get hired at American and other major airlines in the 50s. But, as a good marketing tool should do, American’s black history lesson seems to only show a clear runway and blue skies.


The home of the Big Mac and ultra-convenient Dollar Menu has revved up its Black History Month efforts this year. Aside from giving away more than $20,000 in much needed scholarship aid to African American students, McDonald’s is spotlighting the young achievers. While the scholarship competition is available nationwide, Philadelphia recipients will receive a full-on celebration. Ronald McDonald House Charities and owners and operators of McDonald’s restaurants in Philadelphia will honor 15 accomplished area high school seniors with the financial support. Awards are based on academic achievement, community service and financial needs.

Renita’s Rating: 4.5

McDonald’s, you make it so hard for me not to like you. It’s pretty obvious that the fast food joint isn’t the healthiest choice. But when you’re low on cash those inexpensive lightly salted French fries and McNuggets hit the spot. And now, how can you feel guilty about patronizing those golden arches? Honestly, who can knock the fast-food giant’s effort? While many BHM efforts take a look at the past, McDonald’s may be helping shape the future of a potential history maker. Bravo.

Foodinistas can literally have their fill of all that Black History Month has to offer with a 30-day taste test of foods prepared by black vendors at participating JEWEL-OSCOs. The event is sponsored by the Midwest food retailer and Coca Cola. Twenty-five vendors will be serving up dishes made with JEWEL-OSCO products as part of “A Taste of Black History” promotion. For all the recession-battered households in Chicago, the company is also offering a “Cookin’ Combos” grocery sweepstakes where the winner will receive a year of free groceries worth $5,000.

Renita’s Rating: 3

Given the miserable state of the economy, I’m not willing to turn down free home-cooked food or free groceries. But without any historical information to put this offer in perspective, it’s merely another marketing ploy. At least the grocer is giving black chefs a bit of exposure.


Looks like high-end retailer Nordstrom is venturing into the music business. After all, Black History Month wouldn’t be complete without a retrospective of “the evolution of the Rhythm and Blues of the ’50s into the soul of the ’60s and beyond.” The CD, “Immortal Soul,” is a compilation of songs from the crooners that gave shape to R&B music including Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Otis Redding, and Etta James

According to a store