Moss Kendrix


The Life and Legacy of Moss Kendrix

The Coca-Cola Years

The Coca-Cola Proposal

The National Association of Market Developers

SPECIAL REPORT: The Changing Face of the Urban Markets

The African-American Image Abroad: Golly, It's Good!

The African-American Image in Advertising

The Advertiser's Holy Trinity: Aunt Jemima, Rastus, and Uncle Ben

A Distorted Reflection: African-Americans and Beauty Products

The Times They Are A-Changing 1960 - 1990

The Advertising Future for African-Americans

What the Public Thinks, Counts

The Alexandria Black History Museum


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The African-American Image in Advertising


I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those
who haunted Edgar Allen Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood
movie ectoplasm I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone,
fiber and liquids -- and I might even be said to possess a mind.
Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows,
it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard,
distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my
surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination --
indeed, everything and anything except me.

-- Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man, 1952


The African-American may be the only race in the world that still continuously confronted by a distorted self image in product advertisements. From the beginning of slavery in the seventeenth century, to the present day African-Americans have fought not only for their freedom but to be understood and respected for their unique and cultural contributions.

The struggle can clearly be seen in the representation of African-Americans in advertising. The practice of advertising is to quickly link image and product in such a way that a lasting impression is created in the public's mind. Both in America and abroad, advertisers distorted the role and the image of African Americans, until everyone becomes confused by the picture represented.

This exhibition is created to provide an overview of some of the ways African-Americans have been depicted in popular culture. The exhibition also highlights documents from the Alexandria Black History Museum's Moss Kendrix collection. Moss Kendrix was an African-American public relations executive, who changed the way Coca-Cola and Carnation products were marketed to African-Americans. Moss Kendrix was not the only African-American in the public relations field, but he was unique in his drive and ambition that began during his school days at Morehouse College.

While The African-American Image in Advertising is not comprehensive in its scope, it is hoped that the questions raised will produce a dialogue and a new awareness of the power of mass media and its ability to influence a cultural consciousness.