Scope and Contents note
This material consists primarily of information relating to significant events in the history of African Americans in the United States. Most of the materials relate to the issue of slavery, race relations and the Civil Rights Movement. Images of African Americans created for commercial use also comprise a large portion of these materials. There is a small amount of information relating to events in France. Although most of the materials are about African Americans, there are only a few created by them.
Materials are arranged by topic to include slavery, abolition, colonization, Reconstruction, the Civil War, and the Civil Rights Movement. The earliest materials relate to slavery and consist primarily of receipts for truces paid on property, advertisements announcing the sale of slaves, passes, promissory notes and speeches questioning slavery.
Late nineteenth century materials relate to organizations created by African Americans in an effort to improve their quality of life. Such organizations include hospitals, homes for orphans, schools, and political associations. These materials aid in our understanding of African Americans as active members of society rather than as victims.
In contrast the largest amount of material from this time period consists of commercial images created by advertisers. Such commercial art reflects the political, social, economic and psychological concerns of the time. The perceptions and fears of the wider society were depicted primarily on advertising cards. Such advertising cards used stereotypical images of African Americans to sell products. These products often included soap, stove polish, tobacco, cosmetics, whiskey, cereal, flour, greeting cards, coffee, baking soda, blacking, bluing, paint, varnish, and music. Often there appears to be no connection between image and product. In those instances African Americans were used to supply the humor. Occasionally there was logic between the image and the product. The logic between the product and the image of African Americans generally was a reference to skin color or lack of education and or social skills.
There are also a number of advertisements portraying African Americans from magazines. These images differed from the ones used on advertising cards which is probably due to the national character of magazines. African Americans were generally portrayed as servants such as Ratus "Cream of Wheat", Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben.
Twentieth century materials cover events and organizations formed during the Civil Rights Movement. Ephemera from C.O.R.E., S.C.L.C. and N.A.A.C.P. represent types of materials that were circulated during the period. There is little or no commercial imagery from this time period.