Hennessy: The Cognac of Hip Hop & Civil Rights (Part 2)

Voiced by Amazon Polly

Hennessy and the Fight for Civil Rights (Continued from part 1)


In 2010, Hennessy launched 300,000 Limited Edition Hennessy V.S bottles with the graphical elements of the original 1865 label of Trois Etoiles (Three Stars) Cognac, the name under which V.S was first known. A percentage of the proceeds from the sale of those bottles went toward the National Urban League in celebration of its 100th year anniversary.

The relationship between the famous cognac and the historic civil rights organization dedicated to economic empowerment and social justice for African Americans dates back to the early 20
th century when then Hennessy’s president, William Jay Schiefflen, became a founding member of the group.  

The connection between Hennessy and African Americans continued after African Americans soldiers returned from WWI and WWII in France, where they got a taste for the spirit.


Civil Rights Movement

But the relationship solidified in the 1950s and 1960s, at the height of the Civil Rights Movement, which sought equality and end to segregation and discrimination for African Americans and other people of color.

While many brands shied away from picking political and racial sides, Hennessy was one of the first spirits brands to invest, openly, in the African American community. None more particularly than in Ebony and JET magazines, where it used black models to sell its cognac instead of just rehashing ads used in other periodicals. Ebony eventually dubbed Hennessy the “unofficial official spirit of Black America.”

And in 1963, while Dr. Martin Luther King led the March on Washington and pronounced his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, Hennessy was already making that dream a reality by hiring 1942 bronze medal Olympian Herb Douglas as Vice President of Urban Market Development.


While some might not think that being a trailblazer in consumerism equates with social justice, Jason P. Chambers, PhD, a professor in the Department of Advertising at the University of Illinois, says that the Civil Rights Movement stemmed in great part from segregation and discrimination in this realm.


“If we really look at the Civil Rights Movement, a lot of the contestation was in consumer spaces, places where people spent money. This is no less important than voting rights, no less important than transportation rights,” Chamber notes in the 2015 documentary, An Unexpected History: The Story of Hennessy and African-Americans (released to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the cognac).


Civil Rights Today

Hennessy’s relationship with African Americans continues to be strong today, when the country is in the midst of protests brought on by the death of an unarmed George Floyd while  Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was filmed kneeling on his neck while three other officers stood watching nearby. Chauvin was charged with murder on Friday May 29. Floyd’s death was the last in a series of recent incidents where African Americans lost their lives in confrontations with white police officers or white people.


For many in the African American community, those episodes and the images of police officers firing rubber bullets at protesters, hitting them with batons, and cities militarized are reminiscent of the situation the country faced in the 1950s and 1960s, proof they say that things are slow to change. 


The National Urban League said so in a letter sent to Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and Police Chief Medaria Arradondo on May 28 along with other leading African-American organizations.
“These types of events deepen distrust in law enforcement, reopen old wounds, and inflict new ones…They remind us of violence against activists during the civil rights movement, of the enforcement of segregation and Jim Crow laws during the 19th and 20th centuries, and of fugitive slave laws in centuries past.”


The letter urges authorities to refrain from using military equipment for crowd control, encourages the use of de-escalation and clear limits on use of force.

Help Amid the Epidemic

Just as peaceful resistance and protests, small business and entrepreneurship were pillars of the Civil Rights Movement. As Matt Kelly of the Florida State University’s DeVoe L. Moore Center writes, “entrepreneurship is still a source of empowerment for minorities, and social entrepreneurs recognize that markets are needed for communities to flourish.”


And Hennessy has also pledged to support African American business as they face the economic ravages of the coronavirus pandemic. Starting in June, the company will launch a $3 million small business recovery effort “Unfinished Business.” The initiative will provide funds to One Hundred Black Men, among other minority organizations, so they can distribute them directly at the community level.


“Unfinished Business is an extension of our legacy supporting multicultural consumers and underscores our ‘Never stop. Never settle.’ ethos,” said Giles Woodyer, Senior Vice President, Hennessy US in a press release announcing the program. “We want to do all that we can to help the small businesses survive the current crisis and pledge resources for the long term; as long as they have unfinished business to settle, so do we.”



Dia de los Muertos: Food, Culture and Tradition story image

October 22 Uncategorized

Dia de los Muertos: Food, Culture and Tradition

Homes around the U.S. are being decorated with pumpkins, ghouls and witches in anticipation of Halloween, but in Mexico, the date coincides with the start of a more ancient tradition that has nothing to do with fright and much to do with culture, food and drinks.

Bolivian Wine: from the Andes to your Table story image

September 29 Bolivian Wine

Bolivian Wine: from the Andes to your Table

Bolivia may not instantly come to mind when one thinks of wine, but the South American country has a long and rich viticulture history that dates back to the arrival of the Spanish missionaries, who first planted vines around the wealthy silver-mining city of Potosi in the mid-16th century.

The ‘Arabica’ Whisperer story image

September 25 Coffee Producers

The ‘Arabica’ Whisperer

The best part of waking up? Well, it’s coffee, of course.

Humanity truly runs on this beverage that helps millions of people around the world wake up, work and function. And if it’s of the Arabica variety, its delicious ‘kick’ will keep you going strong all day long.

Raise a toast to Latino Heritage Month story image

September 15 Latino Heritage Month

Raise a toast to Latino Heritage Month

The Empire State Building kicked off Latino Heritage Month by shining red, white and green colors onto the New York skylight on September 15 in honor of the Mexican flag.

PEOPLE ARE STRANGE: Jim Morrison story image

August 16 Music


Jim was quoted in his poetic nature: “Being drunk is a good disguise.” He said. “It means I can talk to assholes.”

Hennessy: The Cognac of Hip Hop & Civil Rights (Part 2) story image

May 31 Civil rights

Hennessy: The Cognac of Hip Hop & Civil Rights (Part 2)

It’s safe to say we would all agree Hennessy and Hip-Hop are associated with each other in a special way. We would even go as far to say, Hennessy has reached global iconic status thanks to that fact. That being said, while the cognac of hip-hop was catapulted to its iconic stature thanks to the help of artist like Tupac and Nas, what we don’t know by looking at the surface is that Hennessy has a long standing tradition of supporting people of African decent.

The First “Shot” Ever Served: A Tale of the West story image

July 15 shots

The First “Shot” Ever Served: A Tale of the West

It’s always a race against the heat in the West. Hell, there’s a score of difference races around here. There’s a race to the riches and a race to the hills where the riches lay. There’s a race to food and shelter and the means in which a man might make to get them. There’s a race to the women and to the brothels and saloons where you can find them at. I don’t look for my women in those places but I often find myself in them for other races. Mine is a race to whiskey. It’s only a matter of time before I find myself in one today.

Bertil Tøttenborg story image

October 20 Bolivia

Bertil Tøttenborg

Bertil Tøttenborg, Sommelier at renowned GUSTU Restaurant - The magnificence of Bolivian wines