Intertwined Black History, Auto Industry Recounted in Toyota Videos

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CARS.COM — A three-part series of short videos created by Toyota recounts the often-overlooked history of how African-Americans helped shape the auto industry, and also the industry’s positive impact on the black community and black families. The series also looks at the continuing need for efforts to promote diversity within the industry at all levels.

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The videos include interviews with Wil James, former president of Toyota’s huge Georgetown, Ky., plant; Frank Washington, an automotive and civil rights journalist who has covered the industry for more than 20 years; and Damon Lester, president of the National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers.

These three short videos below, released in conjunction with African American History Month, look at the lure of auto jobs in driving the Great Migration, diversity efforts in the industry, and the role of African-American dealers in the industry and their communities.

Great Migration to Jobs

Excerpt from Washington: [When African Americans left the South as part of The Great Migration] “the auto industry is what they were coming to … Ten different states passed anti-discrimination laws in the 1940s, so the glass ceiling was being raised — maybe not much, but a little bit … They weren’t necessarily living from paycheck to paycheck; they had money to spend; they could participate fully in the American economy. Now, a lot of that was fueled by the industry … It sounds corny, but there was an air of freedom that they had never known before.”

Continuing Need for Diversity

Excerpt from James: “I had a passion, and that was around diversity and inclusion … How can you expect women and people of color to feel truly, fully engaged in an environment where they are not in the places where the discussions and decisions are being made? … Now, diversity and inclusion is a pretty significant part of who Toyota is. Our entire company is a far, far better place because we’ve been able to have those kinds of discussions.”

Black Dealers Drive Progress

Excerpt from Lester: “Black dealers have faced discrimination back then and even today. There are a lot of black dealers today who still can’t advertise that they own their stores … The role that black dealers play today, and even from before, is as pillars of the community … You look at all the direct and indirect support that a dealership provides within that community … It plays an intricate role creating a circle of life of how cash circulates through the community.”’s Editorial department is your source for automotive news and reviews. In line with’s long-standing ethics policy, editors and reviewers don’t accept gifts or free trips from automakers. The Editorial department is independent of’s advertising, sales and sponsored content departments.

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