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Racist Postcards in the United States

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1 Racist Postcards in the United States
1890 – 1960 Karen F. Dimanche Davis 2007 Revised 2011

2 These racist postcards were:
Made and used primarily from 1900 through 1965 Imagined, created, and manufactured by real people Sold in the or millions (From , 10 billion cards were sold in the U.S., with depictions of Blacks among the most popular styles) Sent throughout the US and in foreign countries to millions of people—many who never met a Black man or woman Reinforced the same demeaning, hateful, terrorizing ideas and beliefs over four generations

3 Types of Racist Cards: * photographic stereotypes *
Mammy Uncle Sambo or Coon Pickaninnies Animal-like labor Simple contentment

4 Some were realistic photographic portraits, but posed by white perceptions to create a “type”– the mammy


6 The “good Darky” or Uncle Tom

7 Pickaninnies

8 Manual labor “beasts” of burden

9 Pickaninnies happily play in cotton—the fields are fun, not work.

10 More fun in the cotton fields—a watermelon break

11 Poor but contented “A Watermelon Feast” “Taking Life Easy Down in Sunny Dixie”

12 (note 7-8 children)

13 Types of Racist Cards:. cartoons and staged photographs
Types of Racist Cards: * cartoons and staged photographs * Staged photographs or cartoons are ideal for conveying demeaning, dehumanizing, or terrorizing images. Real human features and events can be exaggerated or even invented. This makes it easier for the artist to depict the intended racist ideals or values. (1) Color jokes (2) Mammy (3) Coon, Sambo, Brute (4) Darkie Preacher (5)Pickaninnies: Sexualized (6) Eugenics & Torture jokes

14 Older Black men, Uncle Remus or Uncle Tom, are beloved
Older Black men, Uncle Remus or Uncle Tom, are beloved. Note: the contrast between dark skin and white cotton fascinated whites, as did the similarity of kinked white hair to cotton

15 Pickaninny—Color Joke

16 Suntan jokes


18 In a caricature, Mammy can be coal-black and obese, with an ugly face, bare feet, and a red kerchief

19 Mammy can be drawn like an animal
Mammy can be drawn like an animal. Not only is she coal black with a red kerchief, coal black, but her posture and figure are being equated with those of a donkey—an ass. Can there be a clearer image of white views of Blacks as sub-human?

20 Mammy is an ever-grinning servant who is washing laundry, and helping the white man write a message. Note the strange animal-like pickaninnies with her.

21 Mammy: “I’s savin’ honey, deed I am— I saves my fat can fo’ th’ groc’ry man” This is a quadruple slur on Black spendthriftiness, ugly women, unusually large buttocks, and sexual permissiveness.

22 Mammy at home, however, is mean to her husband and children
Mammy at home, however, is mean to her husband and children. She beats them and neglects them.

23 Poor Old Joe: weak, skinny man starves while his ugly Mammy wife grows fat. Whites misunderstand West African preferences for slender, quick-footed men and ample women who could successfully bear and raise children.

24 An ugly, slovenly wife awaits her ugly, drunken husband, waiting to beat him—implicating Blacks in hating each other

25 The ugly Black woman is beating up on her own “poor old Joe”, suggesting ugly Black women dominate and beat their weak men as if they were children.

26 “Poor Ole Joe” gets his revenge—whites projecting hatred of the Black woman onto the Black man

27 A Mammy & Pickaninnies puzzle asks us to show her all “eleben” pickaninnies, “no white trash.” With stick in hand, she plans to beat them when we find them. (Note the eugenics message in 11 children)

28 A baby mammy in training—overpowering the frightened skinny boy

29 Another young Mammy-in-the-making accuses her husband of being lazy
Another young Mammy-in-the-making accuses her husband of being lazy. (N-word)

30 A play on words: “Coon trees possum”—naming Black men as “coons” and implying their animal nature

31 Black Man as Gorilla (France)

32 “You doun want none of my lip hey
“You doun want none of my lip hey?” The answer to this ugly Coon who thinks he’s a civilized gentleman is, of course, “No, I would NOT want your ugly face.”

33 Black man as a savage, a cannibal

34 Coon with Razor: His eye is on Mammy’s Big Butt
Coon with Razor: His eye is on Mammy’s Big Butt. Again, a multiple slur--Black men are irresponsible, dangerous, sexually lascivious, and Black women have ugly faces and large buttocks.

35 Coons with uncontrollable appetites for chicken and woman-as-chicken

36 “Discovered”—these young men are avoiding work in the cotton fields, implying they are lazy

37 Happy, irresponsible young Coons gamble away their lives—on their way to even more criminal behavior


39 A play on words for criminal behavior by young Black men

40 “Out on bale”—a play on words—implying the young black man’s natural condition is to be in jail or “out on bail”

41 And this child is already in jail

42 Most “criminal” acts depicted are petty theft— chickens and watermelons—by children

43 Coon dreaming of free chicken


45 Coon—the Black man as a chicken thief


47 Irresponsible fighting among young men (N-word) (compared with gentility of patriotic whites, 1901)

48 Coons can, if uncontrolled, revert to their true state—African primitive savagery

49 If kept busy at manual labor and fed with watermelon, they will be “the happiest people on earth”

50 . . . And happily play the banjo

51 Why watermelons? A symbol of simple contentment (Note: Coon becomes an edible fruit)

52 In his proper place as servant, the Black man is a happy, smiling, caricature, not a man

53 Double stereotype: A Scottish man resents tipping the grinning, dehumanized Black Coons who serve him

54 Coon Chicken Inn. Yes, a real restaurant chain—Portland, Seattle, and Salt Lake City


56 Whites invented a “Darky Preacher” to warn Blacks against drinking, fighting, gambling, gossip, and trying to pass as white!



59 Black children become Pickaninnies
Black children become Pickaninnies. Here, they are chocolate candies—morsels to devour

60 Little girls are also chickens to be eaten up sexually

61 Both adults and children: Sexual, pregnant and ignorant

62 Black children share watermelon and an implied romance

63 Dark-skinned pickaninnies (a sexualized boy and girl) happily engulfed in watermelon and cotton—note they are also be-headed

64 Pickaninnies with bare butts were a popular theme, suggesting that children were undressed, like animals, and sexually available


66 Pickaninny—bare butt, raggedy clothes—unsuited to be a soldier

67 Black children are sexualized, with heart-shaped bare butts.

68 Pickaninnies, naked and sex-crazed

69 Children are sexualized
Children are sexualized. They are coal-black with huge red balloon lips, uncombed hair and ragged clothing. Like his father, this boy is sex-crazed.

70 A dark outlook Six little pickaninnies
This supposed hyper-sexuality leads Blacks to have many children—thus an implied eugenics message in images of families with many children A dark outlook Six little pickaninnies

71 Mother with seven children and a dog “Eight little pickaninnies kneeling in a row”


73 The implied eugenic message explains the often subtle “torture” jokes in which Black men, women, and children are tortured or killed

74 These sexualized children with heart-shaped bare butts are objects of torture by another sex-crazed boy

75 A bare-butt pickaninny torture joke

76 Mammy, Coon and Pickaninny—all being tortured

77 Bees will sting and “eat up” an innocent child.

78 Mammy—Torture Joke. Here the woman’s breasts are being drawn into a washing-machine wringer. When white men suffer similar industrial accidents they are horrified and expect compensation—here, it’s supposed to be funny.

79 Torture Joke (advertisement for Korn Kinks)

80 Pickaninny Castration Jokes Displaying fears of Black male sexuality

81 Pickaninny—Torture Jokes A popular theme is Black children and men as alligator bait—animals to be eaten by animals True feelings for Blacks are displayed in these cards

82 “Come on Down” Torture Jokes

83 Pickaninnies “Alligator Bait” Torture Joke Like animals, the children are naked and without adult supervision

84 Pickaninnies—Torture Joke as a “Joy Ride”

85 Pickaninny—Torture Joke

86 His Last Prayer—Torture Joke Implying Black men wait for God’s help rather than take reasonable action

87 After a while, the alligator theme is so well known, it can be simply shown, to imply the alligators will devour the hated mammies

88 Similar images and ideas are still common today in newspapers, magazines, television, and other media. What examples can you give?

89 Bibliography Anderson, L.M. From blackface to “genuine negroes”: nineteenth-century minstrelsy and the icon of the “negro”. Theatre Research International 21(1):17-23, Spring 1996. Baldwin, B. On the verso: postcard messages as a key to popular prejudices. Journal of Popular Culture 22(3):15-28, Winter 1988. A brief history of postcards. Shiloh Postcards , accessed 03/31/2011 “Coon cards”: racist postcards have become collectors’ items. Journal of Blacks in Higher Education 25:72-3, Autumn 1999. Curry, A. Men in blackface. U.S. News & World Report 133(2):24-5, July 8, 2002. Alan Petrulis. (2010). Post Cards Between the Wars, 1914 – 1945: Racist Humor. Metropolitan Postcard Club of New York City, accessed April 9, 2011. Pilgrim, David. Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia, Ferris State University, accessed 03/31/2011

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