A new documentary chronicles the history of black dealers.
The National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers showed "Making Tracks: Black Pioneers in Automotive Retailing" for the first time at its annual conference last month.
Reynolds and Reynolds Co., of Dayton, Ohio, produced the 50-minute film. NAMAD and Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, a civil rights group headed by Jesse Jackson, contributed. Actor Danny Glover narrates.
Rick White, director of professional relations at Reynolds, says his company has been a business partner of NAMAD for years. Reynolds sponsors NAMAD's annual Lifetime Achievement Award.
"It was natural that they would look to us," White says. "This was a story that needed to be told."
Automakers, dealers helped
The National Automobile Dealers Association, General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and DaimlerChrysler AG helped pay for the documentary.
Rusty Restuccia, an expert in minority dealer history, was a consultant. Restuccia administered Ford's minority dealer program in the early 1990s.
Glover filmed his narration at America's Packard Museum in Dayton.
The documentary intersperses grainy footage of vintage cars with images depicting slavery, lynchings and the civil rights era. It describes how black workers fled the South in search of the $5-a-day wages promised by Henry Ford.
It features the first black dealer, Homer Roberts of Kansas City, Mo. He sold Hupmobile, Rickenbacker and Oldsmobile vehicles in the 1920s.
Detroit dealer Ed Davis also appears prominently. Davis got a Studebaker franchise in 1940 and owned a Chrysler-Plymouth dealership from 1963 until 1971.
Honoring the trailblazers
NAMAD President Sheila Vaden-Williams says the film honors trailblazers in black entrepreneurship.
"It is important that we don't forget where we came from and how we got here," she says.
Blake Cole, Reynolds' director of events, in-house design and multimedia, says his company is distributing the documentary to minority dealers across the country.
Historically black colleges and some museums will get the video, Cole adds. Some public TV stations are interested in broadcasting it, he says.
Says Cole: "We thought the production value and content warranted such consideration."