Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben, and Rastus: Blacks in Advertising, Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

By Marilyn Kern-Foxworth | Go to book overview

citizens, and climbing the social ladder to the extent of moving on a plane of equality with the poor whites. ( Greene, 1916, p. 163)

A thorough investigation of slave advertisements, especially those for runaway slaves, tells us that although everyone was affected in one way or another, some were affected differently and more severely than others. In scrutinizing such advertisements, it is also important to remember that they were all written from the standpoint of the slaveholder and therefore certain inherent biases are observed. Notably, for obvious reasons slave owners were more obliged to present favorable characteristics of slaves to be sold and unfavorable characteristics of those who had run away. Advertisements are critical documents in trying to put together the puzzle of slavery -- a puzzle that would otherwise remain incomplete if not for their existence.

Patricia Bradley ( 1987) suggests that slave advertising during the colonial period provides a "mirror to the dilemma" -- a mirror that more and more African-Americans are examining because they realize what an integral part slavery plays in the recovery of their past and how much its scrutinization will play in their future.

Whereas there was a period in history when blacks wanted to forget that slavery ever happened, they now realize that instead they should read, analyze, and document everything remotely related to slavery 4 as well as those atrocities that followed: namely, Jim Crow, discrimination, segregation, racism, prejudice, racial bias, and bigotry. The legacy of slavery did not wash away as easily as snow does on a rainy day. Instead the remnants of slavery clung to the liberal Northerners and the Southerners in the land of Dixie in the same vein that the image of the Southern Belle has become a staple of the Southern plantation. In other words, certain images that were dominant during slavery were carefully transferred into contemporary society.


NOTES
1.
Pistoles were Spanish coins often used in the specie-poor American colonies. One pistole was equal to slightly more than one Pennsylvania pound during the middle decades of the 18th century.
2.
The majority of people who placed advertisements for runaway slaves were men, but this shows that some were placed by women.
3.
Even if it were possible to examine all of the advertisements for runaway slaves, it would be difficult to determine that those scars or other visible signs of mutilation mentioned occurred at the hands of their masters or overseers or those law officials who imprisoned them. All the abolitionists or, for that matter, we can assume is that some slaves were severely beaten, branded, or treated in an exceptionally cruel manner by someone.
4.
One group of African-American citizens wants to ensure that the plight of slaves will live in infamy. African-Americans for Humanism, based in Buffalo, New York,

-25-

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Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben, and Rastus: Blacks in Advertising, Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Foreword ix
  • Preface xi
  • Acknowledgments xv
  • Introduction xvii
  • References xxi
  • Chapter 1 - Slave Advertisements: A Mirror to the "Peculiar Institution" 1
  • Notes 25
  • References 26
  • Chapter 2 - Memories of the Way We Were: Blacks in Early Print and Electronic Advertising 29
  • Notes 41
  • References 41
  • Chapter 3 - Myths, Lies, and Stereotypes: Black Advertising Symbols, Characters, and Models 43
  • References 58
  • Chapter 4 - Aunt Jemia: The Most Battered` Woman in America Rises to the Top 61
  • Appendix: Chronology of Important Dates in the History of Aunt Jemima 107
  • Notes 108
  • References 109
  • Chapter 5 Invisible Consumers: Gaining Equal Representation for Blacks in Advertising 115
  • Notes 127
  • References 127
  • Chapter 6 - Separate and Definitely Not Equal: Frequency of Blacks in Advertising 131
  • Notes 146
  • References 146
  • Chapter 7 - Blacks in Advertising: Critics Give Two Thumbs Up 149
  • Notes 163
  • References 164
  • Chapter 8 - Epilogue: Colorizing Advertising: a 21st-Century Challenge 167
  • Notes 172
  • References 172
  • Appendix: African-American Museums and Resource Centers 175
  • Selected Bibliography 183
  • Index 191
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