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Home arrow Political science arrow Dimensions of Racism in Advertising: From Slavery to the Twenty-First Century

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Early Twentieth Century

In her discussion of advertising from 1900 to the mid-1960s, Kern-Foxworth found that negative advertising images of blacks remained prevalent in American society. The logos of the late nineteenth century had become permanent icons in most American homes:

It was difficult to prepare a meal without using food products featuring a stereotypical images of pickaninny, black mammy, or black Sambo. In other words, the use of blacks in pejorative and stereotypical advertising kept them emotionally bound to the idiosyncratic whims of their former masters. With advertising, former slave owners became masters over different objects. They made them subservient. They made them docile. They made them act stupid. They made them appeared ignorant. They made them ugly. They made them grotesque. They made them want to be white. These symbols not only continued but proliferated around the turn of the century with the overwhelming success of Uncle Ben, The Gold Dust Twins, Rastus and Aunt Jemima (40—41).

Kern-Foxworth also asserts that the value of black collectibles, items like trade cards and household products, grew considerably over the years. Value was related to how insulting the image and accompanying text were to blacks; the greater the insult the higher the value. The most prized images depicted blacks in compromising positions, and the visages were extremely exaggerated: large heads, thick lips, pop eyes, and huge teeth (34).

From the eighteenth century to the first fifty years of the twentieth, advertising agencies virtually ignored African American consumers, because they argued that white entrepreneurs thought that pitching their products to black consumers would blurring the products’ image with mainstream consumers. Advertisers felt that white America had the economic power to obtain the advertised products.

 
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