Racist advertisements are more common than you would think. In my quest to learn more about the history of advertisement, I found these shocking examples of vintage advertisements with a “racism in advertising” theme.

I never thought that studying the history of advertising, marketing and promotion would shock me. But when I first saw these racist advertisements, I was shocked.

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These vintage advertisements speak for themselves. But if you would like to offer your comment or point us to other such vintage advertisements, please use the comment field below. See even more vintage advertisements on Pinterest here.

Nigger Make-Up – racist ad from the 1930’s

Racist advertisements

The use of the word nigger and depicting the African-American male as a very repulsive and ugly person makes this ad appalling. #notoracism

 Jell-O racist ad from 1922

racist advertisement

A white woman reclining in a large chair. She is dressed in simple silk robes, with an open book resting on her lap. A cup, plate and a pitcher sit on her cane side-table. Her elegance is interrupted by the arrival of two black boys, one of whom presents a golden Lemon Jell-O.


Pears´soap from 1884

Racist ads

The original Pears soap advert based on the fable Washing the Blackamoor white, published in the Graphic for Christmas 1884. Pears´Soap was founded in 1807 in London, England. From the late 19th century, Pears soap was famous for its marketing, masterminded by Barratt. Its campaign using John Everett Millais’s painting Bubbles continued over many decades. As with many other brands at the time, at the beginning of the 20th century, Pears also used their product as a sign of the prevailing European concept of the “civilizing mission” of empire and trade, in which the soap stands for progress.


Racist billboard election campaign against former president Obama

racist outdoor ads

This outdoor racist billboard was seen in a number of US states. The billboards caused a major scandal.