One of the interesting story lines about civil rights and the Southern movement for equality was its intersections with business. While many companies sided with the white elite that fought integration and civil rights tooth and nail, other "enlightened" wings of business saw it to be in their self-interest to embrace change.

This week, North Carolina Public Radio's talk show The State of Things -- which has recently featured the Institute -- did a fascinating story about Pepsi Cola and NC Mutual Life, a historic black-owned business based here in Durham, NC:


More than fifty years ago, NC Mutual Life - one of America's oldest black-owned companies - replaced all of its Coke machines with Pepsi machines. This seemingly minor event held real significance. It was the work of the nation's only all-black sales team, which was hired by Pepsi's CEO in the 1940s, with a mandate to corner the so-called "Negro market".

Author and Wall Street Journal editor Stephanie Capparell joins host Frank Stasio to talk about her book, "The Real Pepsi Challenge: The Inspirational Story of Breaking the Color Barrier in American Business" (Wall Street Journal Books/2007).

You can listen to the show here.

Photo: North Carolina Mutual Life employees, circa 1906. Photo courtesy of UNC Libraries