The ANA Educational Foundation (AEF) is the bridge that connects the advertising, marketing and academic communities. Together we educate and inspire the next generation of talent while advancing the understanding of marketing and advertising in society.

As part of our mission to proactively shine a spotlight on diverse populations and consumers in the United States, the AEF has undertaken an unprecedented project called Race & Ethnicity in Advertising—America in the 20th Century. Our goal is to develop the definitive online exhibition and archives about how American experiences of race and ethnicity have shaped and been shaped by the development of advertising over the course of the 20th century. We will establish an extensive resource for teaching and research about this critical aspect of American history.

These advertisements, created from 1890-today, express a range of ideas about race and ethnicity. While many of these ads represent widespread thinking among the dominant populations of their respective times, they can be deeply disturbing and offensive. AEF provides these images, not as an endorsement of their content, but in an educational effort to more fully understand advertising. We hope that by studying these advertisements users will deepen their knowledge about race, ethnicity, advertising and consumer culture in America and become more critical thinkers in the process.

What Is This Project?


The ANA Educational Foundation's Race & Ethnicity in Advertising site is an educational project focused on providing students, professors, advertising industry professionals and other users an important and rare look into the ways that race and ethnicity have shaped advertising and the ways that advertising has shaped our understanding of and conversations about race and ethnicity.

We are currently in the beta phase, which means that you have the opportunity to use and experience the site first: to provide feedback and to shape the look, feel and content of the final site. We are deeply committed to creating a site that is content-rich, aesthetically pleasing and user-friendly.


Race, ethnicity and advertising are the keywords for this project. Below are our definitions:


Today scientists have shown that there is only one race—the human race. In the past, we know that many people did think that there was a biological basis for race. However, scientists and other researchers have clearly proven that the idea of different races is totally inaccurate. There are phenotypical variations among people: humans have different eye colors, skin colors, and hair types. Nonetheless, a kidney is a kidney in all people. Biologically all humans are the same species (have the same genotype.)

Despite the fact that “race” is not biological, racial notions were and to some degree still are pervasive in American society. Ideas about race still involve deeply held beliefs that structure how we see ourselves and how we see others. American history includes racial slavery and the forcible displacement of native peoples (Indians) from their homelands. After the Civil War, beginning in the late 1870s, Americans developed a racial hierarchy that in many states legally defined people by race and separated them into different racial categories. This racial hierarchy was called segregation, and sometimes colloquially referred to as “Jim Crow.” Although the 14th and 15th amendments to the U.S. Constitution (1868, 1870) stated that all people were “equal before law,” racial practices, attitudes, and beliefs limited the freedoms of many peoples of color for decades, not just African Americans. Supreme Court decisions in the 1940s and 1950s and laws passed in the 1960s defined racial segregation as unconstitutional.

Important Note
Acknowledging the historical legacy of race in American society means exploring the representations of various groups of European Americans (whites) alongside those of African Americans, Asian Americans, South Asian Americans, American Jews, Native Americans (Indians), and other groups. By making whiteness more visible as a racial category, we can more fully understand the history of race and ethnicity in advertising.

For more information about race as a keyword, see the American Anthropological Association's website.


Ethnicity is a concept that refers to the cultural traditions, ideas and practices that a distinct group of individuals share. Those individuals identify with each other on the basis of a real or a presumed genealogy, ancestry or nationality. Cultural (or racial and ethnic) identities are often expressed through language, foodways, religious beliefs and practices, styles of dress, shared historical experiences and even distinct, urban neighborhoods or rural areas.

In the United States before about 1970, the terms “ethnicity” or “ethnic group” generally referred to European immigrant groups with national origins and cultural identities that were seen as different from the prevailing Anglo-American cultural traditions and practices. In the 21st century, many younger Americans use the term “ethnicity” to refer to people who are from Asia, Africa and South America. In an earlier time, most of these people would have been seen as “racial” not “ethnic groups.”


In the Internet age of Facebook, Instagram and smart phones, we are awash in visual imagery. Yet, much of this is unmoored, that is detached from larger historical and cultural contexts. For example, musical and visual sampling involving mashing up together sounds and images that were originally quite separate. Therefore, it can be difficult for listeners and viewers to determine the historical origin and meaning of particular images and sounds. The research values of advertising as a visual medium is that it is grounded in its goal of selling products. Therefore, it gives us a standard by which to understand and evaluate visual images and messages.

While we usually think of advertising as existing in a magazine, on a billboard or in between content on YouTube or Hulu, this project has a more expansive scope. We also include album covers, book covers, sheet music, postcards and more because they are essentially advertisements for those products.

This project looks critically at advertising from the 1890s to the present in order to provide a historical and thematic view of how race and ethnicity have been and continue to be represented. We invite you to see what groups are (and are not) represented and how that has changed (and not changed) over time.

How To Use This Site

This site offers multiple ways to access information, which enables you to easily and quickly find the content you seek. These include:

  • Essays
  • Racial & Ethnic Groups
  • Right Sidebar
  • Search/Advanced Search
  • Time Periods


The Essays are helpful for users seeking to understand the history of advertising for racial & ethnic groups. Written by renowned scholars, the essays map the changes in advertising over the past 100 years. Essays include:

  • African Americans and Advertising
  • Chinese Americans and Japanese Americans in Advertising
  • Cultural Transformation and Chinese Figures in Nineteenth Century American Trade Cards
  • European Americans and Advertising
  • Jews and American Advertising
  • Latin Looks in Hollywood Over Time
  • Latinos and Advertising
  • Native Americans and Advertising
  • Sexuality, Race and Ethnicity in Advertising
  • South Asian Americans in Advertising

Within each essay, related images are shown toward the bottom of the page.


This information is helpful when seeking content on specific racial & ethnic groups. There are eight different categories from which to choose:

  • African Americans
  • American Jews
  • Chinese Americans
  • European Americans
  • Japanese Americans
  • Latinos/Latinas (Hispanics)
  • Native Americans (American Indians)
  • South Asian Americans

Each category contains images associated with these categories. Images may be associated with more than one category.

[Note: If you do not see the racial or ethnic group that you are seeking, simply use the Search functionality.]


The detail page for each image (or video clip) shows information about the images as well as cross-relational links that run searches so you can easily see images along any vector. Clicking on the image itself will display the full-sized image. Use the back button to return to the page.

The right sidebar of all image detail pages contains:

  • Navigation through either the Collection or Search Group, depending upon how you got to the page
  • Date (if known)
  • Brief description
  • Keywords and contexts (descriptions of unfamiliar & important terms)
  • Related essays
  • Image format (e.g. a black & white photograph or a postcard)
  • Repository or institution that owns the image
  • Collection (within the repository) where the image can be found
  • Tags (searchable categories that will lead you to similar content)


This site includes robust search functionality. The simple search runs a full-text search against all information on the site and returns first general pages, then image pages (exclusive of the text within the advertisement).

Advanced Search offers 16 different criteria (and combinations therein) in which to build a search. Note that the more criteria used in combination the narrower the return, to the point where your criteria may return zero results. In that case, reduce the number of criteria or start broad and then narrow your search.


The Time Periods functionality enables you to find images from 13 different historical periods, which are listed below:

  • Late 19th Century (1880-1899)
  • Turn of the 20th century (1890-1910)
  • Early Twentieth Century (1900-1919)
  • World War I (1914-1919)
  • After World War I (1920-1930)
  • Depression Era (1929-1940)
  • World War II (1939-1945)
  • The Cold War Era (1945-1990)
  • Modern Civil Rights Era (1950-1970)
  • Vietnam War Era (1960-1975)
  • Late 20th Century (1976-1999)
  • Turn of the 21st Century (1990-2010)
  • 21st Century (2000-today)

For example, if you are interested in advertisements that were produced during World War II (1939-1945) but not necessarily about World War II (1939-1945), you would click on World War II (1939-1945).

However, if you are interested in images about World War II, the Search/Advance Search functionality is your best entry point because it will grab all of the visual and textual content related specifically to World War II.

The Time Periods, then, refer to the historical time period in which the advertisements were produced but not necessarily to the content of the advertisements.

(Note: Several Time Periods overlap.)

Project Team

The following core team has been responsible for taking this project from concept into its current form.

Fath Davis Ruffins
Curator, Smithsonian National Museum of American History
Project Director

Paula Alex
Retired President & CEO, The Advertising Educational Foundation

Marya McQuirter, PhD
Digital Curator/Content Manager

Todd Rengel
President, Animus Rex Inc.
Technical Director

James Glenn

Katrina Gomez

Farheen Jooma

Past Participants

Tia Blassingame

Victoria Charette

Brendan Ferreri-Hanberry

In addition, many individuals from academia and the advertising/media industry have contributed their insight and expertise to this project.

Advisory Panel

Our Advisory Panel has provided expertise and guidance from both the academic and industry perspective.

Arlene Davila, Professor of Anthropology and American Studies, New York University

Hasia Diner, New York University, Department of History, Skirball Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies

Daisy Exposito-Ulla, Chairman & CEO, d’exposito & Partners

Jonas Greene, Brand Manager, American Indian College Fund, Wieden + Kennedy

Hiroko Hatanaka, Vice President, Management Supervisor, IW Group

Jacqueline Hernandez, Chief Operating Officer, Telemundo Media

Bill Imada, Chairman and Chief Collaboration Officer, IW Group

Paul Kurnit, Founder and President, Kurnit Communications and PS Insights, Marketing Professor, Pace University

Pat Lafferty, President, McGarryBowen

Byron Lewis Sr., Chairman Emeritus, UniWorld Group, Inc.

Shirley Jennifer Lim, Associate Professor of History, SUNY Stony Brook

Gord McLean, President & CEO, ANA Educational Foundation

Joe Min, Account Director, interTrend Communications

Mendi Obadike, Assistant Professor, Humanities & Media Studies, Pratt Institute

William M. O’Barr, Professor of Cultural Anthropology, Duke University

Kathy Peiss, Nichols Professor of American History, University of Pennsylvania

Clara Rodriguez, Professor, Department of Sociology & Anthropology, Fordham University

Hayes Roth, Principal, HA Roth Consulting

Shalini Shankar, Associate Professor of Anthropology & Asian American Studies, Northwestern University

Susan Smulyan, Professor, Department of American Studies, Brown University

Robert W. Snyder, Associate Professor, Director of American Studies, Rutgers-Newark

Jon Yokagawa, Vice President, Consumer Engagement, interTrend Communications


Funding by the following organizations have made this project possible. 

AEF Board of Directors 

Association of National Advertisers (ANA) 







Other AEF Resources

Race & Ethnicity in Advertising is brought to you by The ANA Educational Foundation who also provides the following online resources:

aef.com—The AEF Website

The site provides access to materials and information on advertising not found elsewhere. It offers extensive exhibits of current and historical advertising such as the Clio, OBIE and Multicultural Excellence Awards as well as case histories, book excerpts and interviews of industry giants. Aef.com is updated regularly and receives over 50,000 unique visitors per month. 
» Visit site

Advertising & Society Quarterly—Scholarly Journal

Advertising & Society Quarterly (ASQ) is published by the AEF and distributed by the Johns Hopkins University Press (JHUP) Project MUSE. Ranked in the top 6% of all MUSE online journals, ASQ includes materials exploring a 360-degree view of issues in original articles by academicians and in interviews, roundtables and panel discussions with participants from industry and academia. While current issue is always available as open access, the journal is accessible to students, professors and librarians via subscribing institutions.

William “Mack” O’Barr, Professor of Cultural Anthropology, Duke University is the Editor. Ed Timke, Department of Media Studies, University of California, Berkeley is Associate Editor. An Editorial Board, consisting of scholars and ad industry representatives, assists the Editor in reviewing submissions and making editorial decisions.
» Visit site

ADText—an Online Curriculum

ADText is an online/virtual “textbook” covering the multiple aspects of advertising and its role in society. The current 28 units can be used in its entirety as the textbook for a one-semester course or adapted for use in courses where one or more aspects of advertising are considered. Topics such as What is Advertising?, Representations of Masculinity and Femininity in Advertising and Multiculturalism in the Marketplace are authored by William M. O’Barr, Ph.D, Department of Cultural Anthropology at Duke University. Also distributed by JHUP Project Muse, ADText has open/free access via university e-journal collections and www.aef.com. 
» Visit site