by Brenna Wynn Greer
Represented explores how African American entrepreneurs produced photographs, magazines, and advertising that forged a close association between blackness and Americanness. In particular, black mediamakers and marketers popularized conceptions of African Americans as enthusiastic consumers, a status essential to postwar citizenship claims. But, their media creations were complicated: subject to marketplace dictates, they often relied on gender, class, and family stereotypes.
Demand for such representations came not only from corporate and government clients to fuel mass consumerism and attract support for national efforts, such as the fight against fascism, but also from African Americans who sought depictions of blackness to counter racist ideas that undermined their rights and their national belonging as citizens.
Black imagemakers discovered that, after World War II, the visual representation of African Americans as good citizens was good business. Their story reminds us that the path to civil rights involved capitalistic, commercial endeavors as well as social and political activism.