“Icons, Rock Stars, and Innovators” Golden Age of Black Advertising


For much of the 20th century, the African-American image in ads was rare, subservient or worse. Blacks were disregarded as consumers, and the doors to the advertising profession were largely closed, according to Jason Chambers, a professor of advertising at the University of Illinois and author of “Madison Avenue and the Color Line

A key turning point came with the magazine Ebony, first published in 1947 by publishing pioneer John Johnson. Unlike black newspapers, which often served as protest organs, it focused on entertainment, sports and general interest stories, and therefore was more appealing to advertisers.

Over the next two decades, leading up to the mid-1960s, corporate interest in the black consumer market grew and black pioneers in advertising, marketing and public relations moved to take advantage.

What followed was a “golden age” for African Americans in the advertising industry, between the mid-1960s and a recession that hit in the mid-1970s. A number of black-owned agencies emerged, and blacks also found new opportunities in mainstream agencies.

Explore our digital exhibit, showcasing icons who created, innovated and led the way during this period. Tom Burrell, Byron Lewis, Vince Culler, Junius Edwards, Howard Sanders, Zebra Advertising, Barbara Proctor-Gardner, and more!

Listen to today’s Rockstars & Innovators: Marc Strachan, Chairman, ADCOLOR; Sheldon Levy, Filmmaker/Producer; Valerie Graves, Author, Former CCO, Vigilante & UWG; Tasha Gilroy, Director, Inclusion and Community at Young & Rubicam; Kendra Clarke, Vice President/Data Science & Product Development, sparks & honey and more… as they discuss the golden ages’ impact on the current landscape of blacks in advertising with the Mixed Company podcast.