In 1891, when Asa G. Candler had already taken over the Coca Cola business, an Atlanta paper revealed that the drink's recipe contained cocaine.
"Candler began marketing the drink as ‘refreshing' rather than medicinal, and managed to survive the controversy," Hale said.
Eight years later, when Coke left the soda fountains and made a fizzy debut in distinctive glass bottles, the social and race issues exploded.
"Anyone with a nickel, black or white, could now drink the cocaine-infused beverage. Middle-class whites worried that soft drinks were contributing to what they saw as exploding cocaine use among African-Americans," Hale wrote.
According to the historian, southern newspapers reported that "negro cocaine fiends" were raping white women, the police unable to stop them.
Although cocaine wasn't illegal until 1914, by 1903, Candler "bowed to white fears, removing the cocaine and adding more sugar and caffeine," the historian wrote.
According to other reports, trace amounts remained in the soda until 1929, when the company perfected the cocaine alkaloid extraction.