Racist postcards in the united states
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Racist Postcards in the United States. 1890 – 1960 Karen F. Dimanche Davis 2007 Revised 2011. These racist postcards were:. Made and used primarily from 1900 through 1965 Imagined, created, and manufactured by real people

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Racist Postcards in the United States

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Racist Postcards in the United States

1890 1960

Karen F. Dimanche Davis


Revised 2011

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 1905-1915, 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 peoplemany who never met a Black man or woman

  • Reinforced the same demeaning, hateful, terrorizing ideas and beliefs over four generations

Types of Racist Cards:* photographic stereotypes *

  • Mammy

  • Uncle

  • Sambo or Coon

  • Pickaninnies

  • Animal-like labor

  • Simple contentment

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

The good Darky or Uncle Tom


Manual labor beasts of burden

Pickaninnies happily play in cottonthe fields are fun, not work.

More fun in the cotton fieldsa watermelon break

Poor but contentedA Watermelon FeastTaking Life Easy Down in Sunny Dixie

(note 7-8 children)

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

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

PickaninnyColor Joke

Suntan jokes

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

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 donkeyan ass. Can there be a clearer image of white views of Blacks as sub-human?

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.

Mammy: Is savin honey, deed I amI saves my fat can fo th grocry man This is a quadruple slur on Black spendthriftiness, ugly women, unusually large buttocks, and sexual permissiveness.

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

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.

An ugly, slovenly wife awaits her ugly, drunken husband, waiting to beat himimplicating Blacks in hating each other

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.

Poor Ole Joe gets his revengewhites projecting hatred of the Black woman onto the Black man

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)

A baby mammy in trainingoverpowering the frightened skinny boy

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

A play on words: Coon trees possumnaming Black men as coons and implying their animal nature

Black Man as Gorilla (France)

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

Black man as a savage, a cannibal

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

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

Discoveredthese young men are avoiding work in the cotton fields, implying they are lazy

Happy, irresponsible young Coons gamble away their liveson their way to even more criminal behavior

A play on words for criminal behavior by young Black men

Out on balea play on wordsimplying the young black mans natural condition is to be in jail or out on bail

And this child is already in jail

Most criminal acts depicted are petty theftchickens and watermelonsby children

Coon dreaming of free chicken

Coonthe Black man as a chicken thief

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

Coons can, if uncontrolled, revert to their true stateAfrican primitive savagery

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

. . . And happily play the banjo

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

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

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

Coon Chicken Inn. Yes, a real restaurant chainPortland, Seattle, and Salt Lake City

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

Black children become Pickaninnies. Here, they are chocolate candiesmorsels to devour

Little girls are also chickens to be eaten up sexually

Both adults and children: Sexual, pregnant and ignorant

Black children share watermelon and an implied romance

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

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

Pickaninnybare butt, raggedy clothesunsuited to be a soldier

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

Pickaninnies, naked andsex-crazed

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.

This supposed hyper-sexuality leads Blacks to have many childrenthus an implied eugenics message in images of families with many children

A dark outlook

Six little pickaninnies

Mother with seven children and a dogEight little pickaninnies kneeling in a row

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

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

A bare-butt pickaninny torture joke

Mammy, Coon and Pickaninnyall being tortured

Bees will sting and eat up an innocent child.

MammyTorture Joke. Here the womans breasts are being drawn into a washing-machine wringer. When white men suffer similar industrial accidents they are horrified and expect compensationhere, its supposed to be funny.

Torture Joke (advertisement for Korn Kinks)

PickaninnyCastration JokesDisplaying fears of Black male sexuality

PickaninnyTorture JokesA popular theme is Black children and men as alligator baitanimals to be eaten by animalsTrue feelings for Blacks are displayed in these cards

Come on Down Torture Jokes

PickaninniesAlligator BaitTorture JokeLike animals, the children are naked and without adult supervision

PickaninniesTorture Joke as a Joy Ride

PickaninnyTorture Joke

His Last PrayerTorture JokeImplying Black men wait for Gods help rather than take reasonable action

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

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


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 http://www.shilohpostcards.com/webdoc2.htm , 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, http://www.metropostcard.com/history1914-1945.html accessed April 9, 2011.

Pilgrim, David. Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia, Ferris State University, http://www.ferris.edu/jimcrow/ accessed 03/31/2011

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