Represented The Black Imagemakers Who Reimagined African American Citizenship

Brenna Wynn Greer

In 1948, Moss Kendrix, a former New Deal public relations officer, founded a highly successful, Washington, D.C.-based public relations firm, the flagship client of which was the Coca-Cola Company. As the first black pitchman for Coca-Cola, Kendrix found his way into the rarefied world of white corporate America. His personal phone book also included the names of countless black celebrities, such as bandleader Duke Ellington, singer-actress Pearl Bailey, and boxer Joe Louis, with whom he had built relationships in the course of developing marketing campaigns for his numerous federal and corporate clients. Kendrix, along with Ebony publisher John H. Johnson and Life photographer Gordon Parks, recognized that, in the image-saturated world of postwar America, media in all its forms held greater significance for defining American citizenship than ever before. For these imagemakers, the visual representation of African Americans as good citizens was good business.

In Represented, Brenna Wynn Greer explores how black entrepreneurs produced magazines, photographs, and advertising that forged a close association between blackness and Americanness. In particular, they 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.



  • $34.95 cloth, 978-0-8122-5143-2
  • $34.95 ebook
  • 336 pages
  • 61 illus., 6 x 9 in.

about the author

Brenna Wynn Greer is a historian of race, gender, and culture in the twentieth century United States, who explores historical connections between capitalism, social movements and visual culture. She is currently at work on her second book, which examines the postwar development of black commercial publishing and its significance within U.S. culture and black life.

A past Woodrow Wilson and ACLS fellow, Greer is an Andrew W. Mellon Society of Fellows in Critical Bibliography 2018-2010 Junior Fellow. As Wellesley faculty, she has held the Knafel Assistant Professor of Social Sciences chair and been awarded the Anna and Samuel Pinanski Teaching Award. She teaches topics in twentieth century U.S. and African American history, including: Constructing “America” and Americans” in U.S. History since 1865; The Cold War United States; The United States in the World War II Era; U.S. Consumer Culture and Citizenship; The Civil Rights Movement Reconsidered; Fashion Matters: Dress, Style, and Politics in U.S. History; Telling Stories: The Politics of Narrating the Black Freedom Struggle; and Seeing Black: African Americans and U.S. Visual Culture.