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 • 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 people—many 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
Poor but contented“A Watermelon Feast”“Taking Life Easy Down in Sunny Dixie”
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
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 donkey—an 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: “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.
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 him—implicating 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 revenge—whites 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)
Another young Mammy-in-the-making accuses her husband of being lazy. (N-word)
A play on words: “Coon trees possum”—naming Black men as “coons” and implying their animal nature
“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.”
Coon with Razor: His eye is onMammy’s 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
“Discovered”—these young men are avoiding work in the cotton fields, implying they are lazy
Happy, irresponsible young Coons gamble away their lives—on their way to even more criminal behavior
“Out on bale”—a play on words—implying the young black man’s natural condition is to be in jail or “out on bail”
Most “criminal” acts depicted are petty theft—chickens and watermelons—by children
Irresponsible fighting among young men (N-word)(compared with gentility of patriotic whites, 1901)
Coons can, if uncontrolled, revert to their true state—African primitive savagery
If kept busy at manual labor and fed with watermelon, they will be “the happiest people on earth”