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"Half Century of Black Memorabilia" exhibit text by Roosevelt Fitzgerald


Download man000966.tif (image/tiff; 26.59 MB)



1970 (year approximate) to 1990 (year approximate)


From the Roosevelt Fitzgerald Professional Papers (MS-01082) -- Personal and professional papers file.

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man000966. Roosevelt Fitzgerald Professional Papers, 1890-1996. MS-01082. Special Collections and Archives, University Libraries, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Las Vegas, Nevada.


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"A Half Century of Black Memorabilia: 1890-1940" will be on display at the UNLV Museum of Natural History through the month of February. The free public exhibit commemorates Black History Month. It features an assortment of art created and marketed by non-blacks which presented stereotypical views of black people.
This art work describes black people as either extremely grotesque, or realistically. However, in botEInstances, the representations were stereotypical either in appearance or In the tasks engaged by the subject. The artists were generally white Americans who found a ready and receptive audience and market for their efforts. These representational pieces of blacK’ people were used by many businesses of the times in advertising their products. They appeared on Saturday Evening Post magazine covers, food label's, calendars, and many other products. These efforts not only nationalized the negative perceptions of black people in the United States but they also had a universalizing effect as weU in that in later years, similar caricatures of blacks appeared abroad on the packaging of products manufactured in foreign countries.
The artifacts in this collection represent approximately a half-century of misrepresentation of black people in media. That misrepresentation has had disastrous results in a society predicated on segregation- de jure or de facto- in which non-blacks have had little opportunity, historically, to otherwise have Knowledge of blacks. The stereotypical portrayals of blacks as represented in these, and the thousands of other similar artifacts, have defined blacks in the minds of many and have left an indelible mark. They have bombarded all our senses and have provided those with an Inclination toward believing the worse of blacks, via the most pervasive institution in our society - media.
Carter 6. Woodson, an educator who founded Black History Week in February 1926, recognized a lack of positive representations of blacks in text books. He sought to help school children become aware of their black history by taking one week out of the year to contemplate the contributions of black people to the development of the United States. He hoped by doing so black youth would have the opportunity to discover a meaningful past and aspire to greater achievements. Over the years his efforts grew to a national, month long observation. His efforts were an attempt to off-set the kind of stereotypical representations that this exhibit depicts.
The artifacts on display for this exhibit are on loan from Roosevelt Fitzgerald, Director of Ethnic Studies at UNLV. The UNLV Museum of Natural History is open Monday through Friday, 9:00a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and on Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Admission is free.