Possibly Edible


Bigotry in Vintage Advertising

It is an unfortunate truth that for many years there was an accepted amount of bigotry toward African Americans in vintage advertising. Of great concern to me is how unjust this was for so many people who had not, but to bear up under it’s yoke. I will try to bring the best depictions to this page. Thank goodness we as a society have transitioned out of that mode to a more equitable standard. Here are a few examples of it in vintage ads…

As you may see, this is not an ad for selling a product. It’s an ad for a runaway slave. A handbill to be specific. So in that respect it is an advertisement, but to a select audience.

The indignities perpetrated upon the African slaves were brought home to me when someone gave me a large basket lined with old handbills from slave auctions. Telling of bucks for the field, women with all their teeth, families that could go together or be purchased separately.

One of the worst cases of propaganda and cruelty in history was the use of these handbills to advertise run away slaves and slave auctions. Then, after emancipation the additional negative depiction of the African American people in advertising for nearly 100 more years.


Cream of Wheat – The thief and the domestic servant.

Sometime around 1910 Cream of Wheat ran this ad showing an African American child stealing apples and escaping an angry dog. Apples fall out of his pocket, but because of Cream of Wheat he is strong enough to get over the wall. He smiles when the dog tears the seat from his overalls. The ad reads like an ignorant person is singing the praises of Cream of Wheat.

This goes to the idea that African American children were poor, ignorant, ragged and stole food. And enjoyed getting away with it. A notion that was par for those times.

Conversely, white children were mostly depicted as good citizens.

There are other stereotypes in this ad. The African American chef was likely assumed to be a domestic servant. Fortunately, today there are many African American chefs in this country. However, for some people the design may still smack of domestic slavery.


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