Grinning with the devil: The use of humor in race record Advertisements

Posted: August 17, 2012 in Justin Guidry, Pre war blues, Technology and Market

Author: Justin Guidry
Source: A Thesis Submitted to the Graduate Faculty of the Louisiana State University – The Department of History

University of Louisiana at Lafayette, April 2007

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Abstract:
“The advertisements that appeared in black newspapers for race records in the  1920s were employed to interest the buying public in a new mode of music: the rural blues. Although blues music is characterized by its sadness and despair, these advertisements employed humor and cartoon illustrations in the advertisements. While at first thought, this method of advertising seems inappropriate, further examination of advertisers’ and the public’s perceptions of blues music, as well as some of the qualities of the genre itself illuminate these elaborately drawn advertisements.

While older modes of plantation stereotyping informed the advertisers and illustrators producing the ads, many of the more racially offensive qualities associated with previous, antebellum depictions of American-Americans were eliminated because of the black public’s emergence as a consumer group. The fact that humor was still used reflects not only the stereotypes that advertisers were working with. It also demonstrates popular perceptions of the blues, which itself frequently incorporated humor and sexual imagery.”

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