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

Mid-Twentieth Century

African American consumers were suddenly appreciated by the advertising industry immediately following World War II because advertisers finally recognized that black consumers had economic power and as enterprising as white consumers. Studies showed that even though African Americans were at the bottom rung

N. K. Fairbank Company, Dept. 20, Chicago, May 1, 1905. Courtesy of Temple University Libraries, Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection.

Postcard sent from Phoenix, Arizona, February 16, 1909. Courtesy of Temple University Libraries, Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection.

1910. Courtesy of Temple University Libraries, Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection.

Cream of Wheat Co., 1923. Courtesy of Temple University Libraries, Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection.

Cream of Wheat Co., 1924. Courtesy of Temple University Libraries, Charles L. Blockson Afro-American Collection.

of the socioeconomic ladder, they were still large contributors to the economy. Marketers failed to design and implement advertisement aimed at African Americans, considering their impressive spending power. By the 1930s representational use of images in advertising that would appeal to black consumers had progressed from marginal, demeaning, and erroneous images to more inclusive elevating and sometimes accurate views of blacks as working-class cooks, chauffeurs, porters, nannies, and other domestic workers. These stereotypical characterizations emanated from the whites’ ideology and worldview. From the 1940s through the 1950s, the socioeconomic status of these characters was depicted without any subtlety.

 
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