Madison Avenue and the Color Line: African Americans in the Advertising Industry

By Jason Chambers | Go to book overview

Chapter 3
Civil Rights and the Advertising Industry

As a people, we must remember that we are not as weak as we have allowed
ourselves to be painted, and we are not as strong as we can be
.

—John E. Jacob

For African Americans, the 1960s seemed destined to become a decade of momentous changes. Near the end of the 1950s, activists won victories in local protests throughout the South, and the Civil Rights Act of 1957 became the first piece of federal civil rights legislation in nearly eighty years. While this legislation lacked significant enforcement measures, it signaled that the federal government was taking the first halting and long overdue steps toward ensuring equal rights for all citizens. Alongside legislative victories, black students integrated public schools (sometimes forcibly); black families moved into previously all-white suburbs; and the nation narrowly elected a new, young, vigorous president, who seemed sympathetic to even further measures of racial advancement.

But these were not victories without cost or pressure. Blacks continued to be victims of racial terrorism and violence, and each victory they won came as the result of their direct action. Direct, nonviolent action was their tactic of choice, and marches, sit-ins, and pressure for legislative redress were the order of the day. Throughout the nation, African Americans organized themselves into groups to press for desired changes. American corporations and advertising agencies could no longer look at the civil rights movement as a strictly southern phenomenon. Instead, the pressure not only came northward, it soon came right into their boardrooms.

In protesting to receive equal treatment and to change existing practices, civil rights activists had more individual foes than allies. While racism stood at the root of much of this opposition, it also sometimes came from a general malaise or unwillingness to change traditional methods. In the case of the advertising industry, blacks faced entrenched ideology

-113-

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Madison Avenue and the Color Line: African Americans in the Advertising Industry
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter 1 - The Rise of Black Consumer Marketing 20
  • Chapter 2 - The Jackie Robinsons of Advertising and Selling 58
  • Chapter 3 - Civil Rights and the Advertising Industry 113
  • Chapter 4 - Affirmative Action and the Search for White Collars 157
  • Chapter 5 - The Golden Age 206
  • Epilogue 259
  • Notes 273
  • Index 307
  • Acknowledgments 321
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