Collection: Winston Blaxsploitation
As World War II came to a close, tobacco companies needed to expand to “new” markets in order to maintain prosperity. At this point, they began issuing mass marketing efforts targeting African Americans. Whereas there was minor advertising in weekly African Americans newspapers prior to the war, scholars cite a number of post-war changes as the sources for the surge in market expansion, mainly the growth in urban migration and the steadily increasing incomes of African Americans in the 1940s (1). One scholar explains that “between 1920 and 1943, the annual income of African Americans increased threefold, from $3 billion to more than $10 billion,” making the population an increasingly appealing demographic for the tobacco industry (2). Indeed, advertising and marketing magazines published many articles at the time describing the profitable “emerging Negro market.” One such article from 1944, for example, was titled, “The American Negro—An ‘Export’ Market at Home” (3). A subsequent article printed a year later provided a table depicting “How Negroes Spent Their Incomes, 1920-1943 (4). The table revealed that the amount of money African Americans spent on tobacco products increased six-fold from 1920 to 1943.
Perhaps the catalyzing force in the tobacco industry’s foray into African American targeting came in the form of emerging advertising avenues that could be used to target African American populations without alienating whites; the 1940s saw the introduction of a number of glossy monthly magazines including Negro Digest (1942, renamed Black World), Ebony (1945) and Negro Achievements (1947, renamed Sepia). These mass-media publications were much more attractive to advertisers than the African American daily newspapers of the pre-war era, with glossy pages and a larger national distribution. The magazines, because they were intended for a purely African American audience, also provided advertisers with an opportunity to run ads featuring African American models away from the eyes of white consumers.