The History Behind Black Folks' Love Of Cadillacs

red cadillac in a parking lot
Leslie Grover-Taylor
January 29, 2024

Black people and Cadillacs may seem like a match made in heaven, but the company once gave us hell. Cadillacs hit the market in 1902 but wasn’t recognized as a luxury brand until 1909. It began targeting “prestige crowds,” meaning there was an unwritten rule that no dealership would sell Black people a Cadillac.

Yet the cars were popular because they were excellent rides. Any Black person who wanted one had to buy one from a white person or pay a white person to purchase one on their behalf. So what changed?

Cadillac took a hit during the Great Depression. The brand suffered so much that it was on the verge of closing down. But then came a crucial decision.

In the 1930s, the company realized prestige wasn’t based on whiteness. It was based on green, and anyone who had the money for a Cadillac was sold one. And buy Cadillacs we did. Black celebrities, teachers, social workers, and others purchased so many Cadillacs, there’s an industry myth that Black folks kept the brand from closing. And market research shows our dollars are still keeping the brand rolling as we prefer Cadillacs to other luxury cars.​​​​

Cadillacs might be a luxury, but the real wealth in this story is what happens when we move collectively. Our unity is powerful. Anything we decide to make happen will happen. So why not turn our potent efforts toward our liberation?

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