8. 8. Black Models and the Invention of the US “Negro Market,” 1945–1960

Elspeth H. Brown

in Inside Marketing

Published in print February 2011 | ISBN: 9780199576746
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191724916 | DOI:
8. 8. Black Models and the Invention of the US “Negro Market,” 1945–1960

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Long before white marketers began paying attention to the US “ethnic” market in the mid-late 1960s, African American marketing professionals invented blacks as a market in order to become visible as a consumer demographic. This essay examines the history and politics of an emergent black modeling industry as an integral part of the creation of a US “Negro market” in the post-war years. How did black professionals and publishers seek to render black Americans visible as a profitable market, and what strategies did they use to transform how whites represented and addressed this demographic within the period's duplicate advertising campaigns? The post-war black modeling agencies, such as New York City's Brandford Modeling Agency and the Grace Del Marco Agency, elaborated discourses of both bourgeois respectability and mid-century glamor to define a commercial space for the display of the black female body that sidestepped older stereotypes of the asexual mammy on the one hand, and the hypersexual jezebel on the other. Marketers elaborated the twin discourses of black, class-inflected respectability and a public, managed sexuality — what the historian Peter Bailey has called “parasexuality” — to signify and enable blacks' full inclusion in American citizenship, through consumption.

Keywords: marketing; modeling; African Americans; sexuality; history; consumer

Chapter.  11102 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Marketing

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