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

By Jason Chambers | Go to book overview

Chapter 4
Affirmative Action and the Search for
White Collars

If we do not now dare everything, the fulfillment of that prophecy, recreated
from the Bible in song by a slave, is upon us: “God gave Noah the rainbow
sign. No more water, the fire next time!”

—James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time

By the mid-1960s, the disillusionment and pent-up anger that many blacks felt were ready to explode. Obviously the nation had made strides with some of the recent civil rights victories in the South, but they had slight impact outside the region. For black residents in northern cities, the victories against bus companies, hotels, and department stores were an important symbol of racial progress but little more. African Americans in most northern cities could already freely vote, experienced few instances of overt racial violence, and already received mostly equal treatment in consumer spaces. In contrast to their southern brethren, the primary focus for northern blacks was economic. As one resident of Harlem bitterly remarked, “The black cat in Harlem wasn’t worried about no damn bus—he’d been riding the bus for fifty years. What he didn’t have was the fare.” As a result, blacks in the North not only continued the fight for job opportunities that they waged since World War II but also expanded their demands to include a special emphasis on professional- and management-level opportunities. The growing problem, however, was that not all African Americans were willing to wait for the ongoing protests to bring the changes that addressed their needs. As writer and poet Langston Hughes passionately warned whites over a decade before the cities exploded:

Negroes,

Sweet and docile,

Meek, humble and kind:

-157-

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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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