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Portrayals of African Americans in Print Advertisements. 1970 - 1990

Clements, Gina Adrain
Mass media, as a whole, has presented images of African Americans in a variety of roles. Many of the twentieth century images of African Americans in the advertising, film, radio, news, and television industries were based upon nineteenth century stereotypes produced by predominantly white-owned companies. 1 An example of the stereotypical portrayals of African Americans on radio was, The Amos and Andy Show, where the characters...spoke in rural black dialect and showed lack of control over events affecting their lives."2 The film industry produced such movies as, Gone With the Wind which personified the stereotypical female role of mammy. The portrayals of African Americans in the advertising industry "reflected society's myths and rituals [and] were usually absorbed and accepted as real...',3 In fact, many of the earlier images of African Americans in the eighteenth century were" ...developed during, the years of slavery and segregation... [and were of] negative, racist images...4 Examples of such images were, Aunt Jemima, which "...personified the mammy stereotype" and Rastus, which exemplified the"...faithful black servant' who appeared on boxes of cream of wheat5 The many images of African Americans in society are usually images that have been created by the media. The African American male has played a variety of roles over the years. He has played a violent, ruthless slave, an illiterate and poor criminal, a drug dealer and occasionally, a professional, to name a few. The stereotypical' portrayal of African Americans in mass media has, in many ways, persuaded society to think and believe that these roles are accurate depictions. lilt advertising adequately reflects our culture it should depict a significant change [in the roles of African Americans] in recent years....." The process of creating a positive image is almost impossible, but the 1990's have shown many African Americans in a variety of realistic roles.