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|Title:||“Dark Shades Don’t Sell”: Race, Gender, and Cosmetic Advertisements in the Mid-Twentieth Century United States|
|Keywords:||race, gender, cosmetics, twentieth century, United States, feminism, hair, skin, racialization, racism, skin bleach, straightening|
|Abstract:||In this study I examine the two major cosmetic categories - products for skin and products for hair - aimed at frican American women and advertised within the black press between 1920 and 1960. Specifically, I examine the Chicago Defender, Afro-American, Plaindealer, and Ebony. My project analyzes the images and conceptions of blackness and beauty sold to women of colour by white-owned and black-owned cosmetics companies. I explore the larger racial and social hierarchies these advertising images and messages maintained or destabilized. A central theme of this project has been tracing the differences in advertising messages and conceptions of beauty communicated by black-owned and white-owned companies. Many of the images and much of the advertising copy produced by black-owned cosmetic companies challenged hegemonic beauty ideals that venerated white beauty and sold white idealization as a norm. The black cosmetic industry, however, was dominated by white-owned companies. The dominant position of white-owned companies was linked to the advantages associated with whiteness, which allowed these companies to advertise with greater frequency throughout the forty-year period. White-owned and black-owned companies often pursued diverging advertising strategies and messaging about black beauty. An important finding of the project is that white-owned companies were more likely to use degrading language and stereotypes to describe black beauty in their advertisements. However, a company’s racial identity did not always determine advertising strategies or messaging about black beauty. An important concept that permeated the 1920s and 1930s was the strategy of racial uplift, which was promoted by several black-owned companies. This strategy tapered out by the1940s as new technologies like photography regularly depicted black women with dignity and accuracy. The 1940s and 1950s witnessed new advertising strategies including the appeal to glamour. This period also saw the introduction of Ebony magazine, which fundamentally altered advertising messages through their appeal to middle class sensibilities.|
|Appears in Collections:||Open Access Dissertations and Theses|
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