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

By Marilyn Kern-Foxworth | Go to book overview

During the Johnson administration, the ad agencies had to turn in reports concerning how many blacks were being used in ads and commercials, but as soon as his term ended, that requirement was no longer in effect and we don't have to turn in those reports any longer. (Lewis, 1977, p. 72)

Ron Gardner, Charles Williamson, and Justin Lord were among the most recognized black male faces during the latter part of the 1970s. Richard Roundtree, whose Shaft movies made him a household word, was another. Most black male models, however, were not as fortunate and did not get the opportunity to cash in on their looks at the box office. Through the years black male models, even those who manage to appear on the covers of fashion magazines, have not been able to support themselves without other jobs. Some are doing better today than their earlier counterparts by modeling for newspaper inserts and catalogs, but those who are able to make modeling a full-time career are still few and far between.

Using blacks to sell products has always been a strategy employed by advertisers. From the historical beginnings of advertising blacks were portrayed in demeaning situations to appease white consumers. Such presentations were eventually eradicated but were replaced by overt stereotypes. When these were targeted by civil rights activists during the 1960s, changes were made and some of the stereotypes became more subtle. "During the sixties we were finally allowed to demonstrate that we too washed our dirty drawers with detergent" ( Allen, 1980, p. 19). But throughout all the transitions fictitious black characters have made more indelible impressions than real models. Drawing on the image of slave cooks on Southern plantations, advertisers have never been reluctant to use black caricatures and symbols to advertise food products. This association has always enhanced sales, and Barbara Proctor reinforced this by adding, "That's why products like Uncle Ben's Rice and Aunt Jemima Pancakes are doing well" ( Lewis, 1977, p. 82).

Aunt Jemima, more than any other black caricature or model, has been wholeheartedly embraced by the American consumer. At various points in history she has been dubbed "the most famous colored woman in America," and today she may in fact be the most well-known African-American female.


REFERENCES

Allen Bonnie. 1980. "In Focus: Blacks in Ads". Essence (February): 19.

Assael Henry. 1987. Consumer Behavior and Marketing Action. Boston: Kent Publishing.

"Black Look in Beauty". 1969. Time, April 11, pp. 72-74.

"Black Models Take Center Stage". 1969. Life (October): 36.

-58-

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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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