According to Forbes, Papa Johns founder John Schnatter said:

Colonel Sanders called blacks n-----s

Is it true that Colonel Sanders, founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken, referred to blacks in this offensive manner?

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    @DavePhD - I think it's fair to assume that the vast majority of people in rural Kentucky in 1910...1920....1930....1940...1950 had that term as one that was pretty accepted and normalized, whether or not they were especially racist. Commented Jul 16, 2018 at 14:22
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    @PoloHoleSet Looking at the 1895 Century Dictionary, it's clear that by this time the word was considered offensive. It specifically says that the word conveys contempt. archive.org/stream/centurydictionar05whit#page/3988/mode/2up
    – DavePhD
    Commented Jul 16, 2018 at 14:32
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    @DavePhD - Not sure that is an argument that it would not be considered common or normal to use it. I mean, wasn't that the defense for Paula Dean, present time period? If it was a normal, prevailing attitude that blacks were less than whites, why would the fact that a term is an expression of contempt mean it would not be used? Commented Jul 16, 2018 at 14:36
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    To be honest, I'm more interested in why the Papa John's founder thinks that's relevant to anything. I'll be interested to read that link Dave provided when I get a chance. Commented Jul 16, 2018 at 14:39
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    @PoloHoleSet - For those who have been living in a cave, PJ's Schnatter was reported to have used the word in some sort of company conference call, and people got wind of it and made a big fuss. (I have no idea what the context was and therefore how egregious Shatatter's action was.) But Schnatter then apparently tried to excuse himself by saying that Col Sanders had used the same word ... some time prior to 1980 when he died. There is nothing "notable" about any of this (other than the fuss being made). Commented Jul 16, 2018 at 19:35

1 Answer 1


According to Colonel Sanders and the American Dream (2012)

Harland Sanders seems to have been utterly without racial prejudice of any kind. No one who has spoken to me for this book nor any credible source in any of the primary or secondary literature about him has even hinted at bigotry or animosity on Sanders' part.

The book goes on to explain that Sanders used the term "Negro" when that was the preferred term, and then switch to the term "blacks" in the 1970s at the request of Ray "Calander" (spelled "Callender" by most sources).

Ray Callender was a black man who was a spokesman for Kentucky Fried Chicken.

He was interviewed 26 November 1999, long after he stopped working for KFC, for a radio show. The transcript says (source advises to listen to audio, says transcript may not be perfect):

Ray Callender: There wasn't a racist bone in his body. For that fact, he bent over backwards to make a change. If the perception of him being a racist was real, he wanted to overcome that.

Mark Schone: As head of public relations for Kentucky Fried Chicken in the late '70s, Ray Callender traveled the country with the Colonel for several years. He had to kick his boss under the table sometimes to stop him griping to the press about the declining quality of Kentucky Fried Chicken, and he heard a lot of salty language in the back of the Colonel's white Caddy. But as a black man riding shotgun for the very emblem of white southernness, Callender never once caught Sanders saying the n-word.

Ray Callender: And the only close incident that came like that was when he was writing his own little speech in preparation for whatever was going on, and he turned to me and said, he wanted to know what us nice folks were calling ourselves these days. And I looked up and I said, well, what do you mean? And he said, well, is-- his term was-- he didn't say nigger. It was Negra. And I said, oh, this is where it comes to a stop. Nowadays we call ourselves black. And then he would say, Well, I wouldn't call you nice folks black. To the Colonel, black was a derogatory term to him. And you can imagine coming through that time, that's-- he was raised in that environment.

Of course, when we travelled out, we'd rent limousines. And in the case with me traveling with the Colonel, I always sat in the back, believe it or not, and he sat up front with the driver. And what he would do, when we got to the motel where we stayed, he jumped out of the car and ran to the back to open the door for me, and run ahead to the hotel and guide me through the door, and he would carry the bags. And we had, at that point, back in 1976, the doorman came to me, scratching his head, and said, you know, I know that man is Colonel Sanders, that Kentucky Fried Chicken guy, millionaire. And I said, yeah. And he said, well, who the hell are you? And the Colonel said, that's my son, but we don't talk about that.

So it seems the Sanders is being falsely accused by Schnatter.

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    I do know from several first-hand accounts from relatives and friends of my parents that Sanders was an exceptionally mild-mannered and polite person, somewhat in contrast with his public persona. Commented Jul 16, 2018 at 21:18
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    I heard he would surprise visit stores to taste test the chicken. If it wasn't good, he'd curse and throw it.
    – user11643
    Commented Jul 17, 2018 at 2:34
  • Who is Ray Calander? Commented Jul 17, 2018 at 6:24
  • @zibadawatimmy a black man who was the head of public relations of Kentucky Fried Chicken around 1976
    – DavePhD
    Commented Jul 17, 2018 at 12:58

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