• Henry's Carbolic Salve features a subservient black woman offering advice from the background, ca. 1885. Courtesy of Boston Public Library via Digital Commonwealth.  

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    Yes dat salve'll cure most anything - burns, cuts, sores, bruises, pimples, eruptions and I'clar, I do believe twould almost make a nigga white - Henry's Carbolic Salve
    • Date
    • 1870-1900
    • Description
    • Title from item. Retailer: John F. Henry & Co., 24 College Place, New York. Date supplied by cataloger.
    • Rights
    • No known copyright restrictions. No known restrictions on use.
    • Partner
    • Digital Commonwealth
    • Contributing Institution
    • Boston Public Library

  • Coal-Roller Pills box. Courtesy of the University of Minnesota Libraries, Wangensteen Historical Library via Minnesota Digital Library.

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    Coal-Roller Pills cardboard box, the Coal Roller Pill Company, New Iberia, Louisiana
    • Description
    • Cardboard box for the Coal Roller Pills. Label reads, "Coal Roller Pills, a laxative for constipation and associated headache, sour stomach, biliousness, colic and cramps due to gas. Each contains resin may apple, ext. bitter apple, calomel (a deriva... more
      Cardboard box for the Coal Roller Pills. Label reads, "Coal Roller Pills, a laxative for constipation and associated headache, sour stomach, biliousness, colic and cramps due to gas. Each contains resin may apple, ext. bitter apple, calomel (a derivative of Mercury), gri, resin jalap. less
    • Rights
    • No known U.S. copyright restrictions.
    • Partner
    • Minnesota Digital Library
    • Contributing Institution
    • University of Minnesota Libraries, Wangensteen Historical Library

  • Trade card for Joseph R. Hofflin featuring a image of young African Americans with watermelons seeking to evade a white man. Courtesy of the Hennepin County Library via Minnesota Digital Library.

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    Trade Card for Joseph R. Hofflin, Druggist and Dealer in Patent Medicines featuring the theft of a watermelon, Minneapolis, Minnesota
    • Creator
    • Hofflin, Joseph R
    • Description
    • Business trade card for Joseph R. Hofflin, druggist and dealer in medicine.
    • Rights
    • Please contact the Hennepin County Library for permission to use.
    • Partner
    • Minnesota Digital Library
    • Contributing Institution
    • Hennepin County Library, James K. Hosmer Special Collections Library

  • Ayer's Cathartic Pills, 1883. Courtesy of the Boston Public Library via Digital Commonwealth.  

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    Ayer's Cathartic Pills. (The country doctor.)
    • Date
    • 1883
    • Description
    • Title from item. Date from item. Dr. J. C. Ayer & Co.
    • Rights
    • No known copyright restrictions. No known restrictions on use.
    • Partner
    • Digital Commonwealth
    • Contributing Institution
    • Boston Public Library

From the mid-nineteenth century well into the twentieth century, African Americans were frequently portrayed derogatorily in American advertisements. Advertisers often depicted blacks as slaves subservient to white people. Racial stereotypes took the forms of Aunt Jemima, Little Black Sambo, and Jim Crow. Black Americans were sometimes represented with exaggerated facial features, such as large lips and bulging eyes. Another stereotype presented African Americans as country folks with a fondness for watermelon and fried chicken and showed them barefoot and dressed in “rough country clothing,” like overalls and straw hats.

These images often showed African Americans offering advice to white people in a deferential manner. African Americans were also presented in cartoons with “humorous anecdotes” in which the joke hinged on the reader’s understanding of the gullible or simple nature of black characters—discriminatory cultural assumptions of the period that today read as racially charged defamation. These images were pervasive and served not only to promote a vast array of consumer products, but also helped to perpetuate negative attitudes and opinions.