Dimensions of Racism in Advertising

From Slavery to the Twenty-First Century

by Edward Lama Wonkeryor (Volume editor)
©2015 Monographs 110 Pages


Advertising has had a racial dimension from slavery to the present. Contributors to this book explore the role of institutionalized racism and bigotry in multicultural marketing since its inception in the 1920s. Promoting ethnic diversity in the advertising industry is not just an important regulatory issue but essential for representation of ethnic images in marketing.
Dimensions of Racism in Advertising will be useful for both research and teaching purposes. It can be used as a textbook in upper-level courses in African American studies, ethnic studies, advertising, mass media, public policy, sociology, and history. For policy makers, it will provide an alternative explanation for the stereotypical portrayal of Africans and African Americans in the United States and elsewhere. It will be similarly useful for nongovernmental organizations in fighting institutional racism and the marginalization of ethnic and racial groups in advertising and marketing.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the Editor
  • About the Book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Preface
  • Acknowledgments
  • Chapter 1 Introduction
  • The History of Race in Advertising
  • Multicultural Marketing and Its Impact on African American Identity
  • Conclusion
  • The Organization of This Book
  • Chapter 2 History of the Regulation of Ethnic Diversity in Advertising Agency Employment
  • Employment Discrimination in Advertising: Realities and Perceptions
  • History of Labor Regulation in Advertising: Why Is This Regulation Necessary?
  • Civil Rights Struggles and Advertising Employment
  • Why Representation Is the Primary Concern: Exploring Advertising’s Cultural Impact
  • Overview of Racism in Nineteenth-Century Advertising
  • Early Twentieth Century
  • Mid-Twentieth Century
  • The 1960s and 1970s: Representation Improves, But Is It Positive?
  • The 1980s: A Fundamental Turn to More Positive Images
  • Late Twentieth-Century Multicultural Marketing Efforts
  • The 1990s and 2000s: Rise of Multicultural Marketing
  • Conclusion: Why Is Regulation of Minority Hiring Essential?
  • Chapter 3 Modern Newspapers and the Formation of White Racial Group Consciousness
  • Normalization of Whiteness a Vital Issue in Race and Media Studies
  • White Group Consciousness and Mass Culture in the Early Nineteenth Century
  • The Penny Press Signals the Formation of a New Social Group
  • Articulations of White-Race Discourse in the Penny Press
  • The Penny Press as an Articulation of Class/Labor/Race Distinctions
  • The Penny Press and the Elevation of “White” Labor
  • When Race Is the Story: The Advent of Modern Journalism
  • The Practices of Modern Media Approaching the Twenty-first Century
  • Notes
  • Chapter 4 Racism, Political Communication, and American Presidential Elections
  • The Theoretical Framework
  • The American Architecture of Racism: Nature and Dynamics
  • Racist Political Adverstisements and American Presidential Elections
  • Case Studies of Presidential Elections
  • The 1968 Presidential Race
  • The 1972 Presidential Contest
  • The 1980 Presidential Election
  • The 1984 Lopsided Race
  • Willie Horton and the 1988 Race
  • The Epochal 2008 Contest
  • Obama’s Election: Farewell to Racist Advertisments in Presidential Elections?
  • Conclusion
  • Chapter 5 Diversity in Advertising in the Twenty-First Century
  • Aims
  • Conceptual Analysis
  • Dimensionality of Diversity in Advertising in the 21st Century
  • Conclusion
  • Chapter 6 Lessons and Conclusion
  • References
  • List of Contributors
  • Index


From the evolution of the United States, advertising was developed and practiced in the republic. In present-day America, it is still being practiced. The leading orthodoxy of the advertising industry has been to advertise to those who are willing and have the ability to buy; previously, this concept was widely limited to the mainstream populace—the predominantly white Americans. African Americans and other non-white Americans were sidelined, because the advertising industry regarded them as being financially incapable to buy any advertised products. This trend continued up to the end of the Second World War. When the Second World War ended, African Americans had significant purchasing power, the highest since the demise of slavery. Having worked in diverse industries during the war and having amassed capital and property, African Americans began to see more advertisements directed at them. In the second half of the twentieth century, advertising agencies extended their advertising campaigns in varying degrees to other racial and ethnic groups including Native Americans, Asian-Pacific Americans, and Hispanics and Latinos.

In colonial America, African Americans and Native Americans were portrayed in derogatory ways in advertising. Similarly in 19th and 20th centuries America, the mischaracterizations of all non-white Americans and products aimed at them in advertising were equally denigrating. The majority of advertising agencies were owned by members of the mainstream culture who disavowed the idea of depicting the non-white populations in positive ways. Non-white Americans pressured the advertising industry to portray them positively in commercials as a part of the American populace. The structural changes in advertising to depict non-white Americans from a stereotypical identity to a positive one was based on the multicultural marketing concept that marketers must connect with the non-white consumers, including African Americans, Native Americans, Asian-Pacific Americans, and Hispanics and Latinos. In so doing, diversity in advertising and American market democracy was enhanced.

In this volume, we illuminate the historical evolution of race in advertising and how racial identity in the communications media was formed. We discuss different topics—multicultural marketing, regulation of ethnic diversity in the advertising agency employment practices, modern newspapers and the formation of white racial group consciousness, racism and political advertising, and diversity in advertising. In response to the stereotypical portrayals of non-white Americans in the media, African Americans and others have fought against negative depictions and they continue to demand the advertising industry to present positive racial and ethnic images in advertisements. If the former is done, we believe the culture ← vii | viii → of diversity that that has made America a multicultural society will resonate in the advertising industry.

We think this volume will serve as a contribution to the existing literature that addresses inequalities and stereotypical characterizations of African Americans and other non-white Americans in advertising.

Edward Lama Wonkeryor

Cuttington University

Dana Saewitz

Temple University

George Klay Kieh, Jr.

University of West Georgia

Natalie P. Byfield

St. John’s University ← viii | ix →


We wish to acknowledge and thank our colleagues and friends who encouraged, supported, and critiqued us during the research and writing of this volume. They are Abu S. Abarry, professor emeritus, African American Studies Department of Temple University, Ralph Young, professor of history and director of Teach-in at Temple University, and Karen M. Turner, associate professor of the School of Media and Communication, Temple University. Students in the courses, Mass Media and Black Community and Historical Significance of Race, at Temple University participated in a dialogue on African Americans and Advertising that provided the impetus for us to probe much deeper into the topic that led to the writing of this book. For their contributions, we are colossally indebted. We are grateful to the following institutions and libraries for allowing us to examine their vast collections on advertising, media and communication, politics, racism, diversity and African Americans: Paley Library and the Charles Blockson Afro American Collection at Temple University; University of West Georgia Library; and St. John’s University Library. We are thankful to the following publising professionals for their editorial work and the formatting of this volume: Alison Anderson and Carolyn Cordelia Williams. Without their assistance, we could not have completed this volume. ← ix | x → ← x | xi →


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2015 (June)
Marketing Bigotry Institutionalized Racism Presidental election campaing 19th century Obama Stereotyping
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2015. 110 pp., num. ill.

Biographical notes

Edward Lama Wonkeryor (Volume editor)

Edward Lama Wonkeryor is Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs and Professor of Media and Communication and African Studies at Cuttington University. He also taught courses in African studies, African American studies, and mass communication at Temple University from 2003 to 2013. His research interests are mass communication, race and ethnic relations, security studies, African political history, military, globalization, and democratic governance.


Title: Dimensions of Racism in Advertising
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112 pages