Welcome to Special Collections
The Special Collections Research Center is home to the University of Chicago Library's rare books, archives, and manuscript collections. Special Collections is a vibrant, interactive place to conduct research, engage in classes using original sources, and view changing exhibitions.
Special Collections Research Center Exhibition Gallery
October 14, 2013 - January 4, 2014
In the twentieth century, images of African Americans have outfitted myriad mass-produced consumer goods, from Aunt Jemima's pancakes to the Air Jordan basketball shoe. How has graphic design shaped the relationship between the politics of race and mass consumption? How have African American entrepreneurs and artists used design to shape their own images of "the race"? Drawing from collections of food packaging, print advertisements, children's books, album covers, and toys, this exhibit will trace the vexed history of racial design, from stark racist caricature to the productions of black-owned advertising firms. It will explore how graphic design capitalized on racist attitudes; it will also illustrate how for many corporations, designers, and consumers, graphic design was used to envision and transform the place of African Americans in society. As a market force and aesthetic style, graphic design emerged as a material and often intimate activity that wove race into the fabric of everyday life.