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‘Good… and long’: Blaxploitation ads for Winston cigarettes, 1970-1973

The term ‘Blaxploitation’ was coined by NAACP head/film publicist Junius Griffin in the early 1970s to describe the genre of African American action films that followed from the examples set by Cotton Comes to Harlem and Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song, but the term certainly could have had other applications—racially targeted marketing that sought to move destructive commodities like malt liquor and menthol cigarettes to underclass populations has long been, and justifiably remains, a highly contentious matter, and is inarguably more literally exploitative than any “exploitation” film. compiled a lode of eye-popping examples from a print campaign for Winston cigarettes.

After World War Two American tobacco companies started to explore new markets to maintain their not insubstantial prosperity. The growth in urban migration and the growing incomes of African Americans (called at the time the “emerging Negro market”) gave the tobacco companies what was sometimes called an “export market at home”. Additionally, a new kind of media started to appear after the war when several glossy monthly magazines including Negro Digest (1942, renamed Black World), Ebony (1945) and Negro Achievements (1947, renamed Sepia) began to be published.

These relatively expensively produced magazines were far more attractive to the tobacco advertisers than the cheap ‘negro’ daily newspapers of the pre-war era, with glossy pages and a far wider national distribution. The magazines meant for a purely African American audience also meant that advertisers could produce adverts aimed and featuring African Americans away from the eyes of white consumers.


“Rich.” “Long.” Got’cha. Wink wink.

The juxtaposition of aspirational fashion, rogue-ish male confidence, and burning cigarettes carries an unmistakable message so old it’s hardly worth spelling out. The longing looks from the women in the near-backgrounds aren’t terribly nuanced in their subtext, either. But all the problematics of death-dealing aside, these are objectively awesome photos, amazing snapshots of a time and place when African American culture was asserting a more prominent place in the US mainstream. Airbrush out the cigarettes (or don’t) and change the captions, and these would be amazing menswear ads, too.


More after the jump…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
After Voter ID law—SURPRISE—Alabama closes DMV offices exactly where most black people live!
12:39 pm



You remember in high school history, when the teacher brought up the old, bad days of Jim Crow? With tales of poll taxes and literacy tests to ensure that access to the ballot remained exclusive to white people?

We like to think that those days are gone, that the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s remedied the worst abuses of systematic white racism. After all, the current occupant of the White House is a descendant of Kenyans. It has to be better.


Well, no.

Those days aren’t gone. They aren’t gone at all.

Most readers are aware that the Republican Party, given to using to a race-baiting rhetoric of resentment that alienates many of the demographic categories required to gain office in many jurisdictions, has adopted a bullshit agenda to fix the scarcely existent problem of “voter fraud” to justify restrictions on voting that—what do you know!—just happen to benefit an electorate that is whiter, older, more affluent, etc.—in other words, more Republican. 

Since Republicans are having trouble winning elections, they are trying to reduce the voting population to the citizens that vote Republican. Nice trick, eh?

Cut to yesterday, when the website for the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency announced that it would be closing 31 of its offices throughout the state, leaving 29 counties without a place where teenagers can take a driver’s test. (For convenience, I’ll using the term “DMV” to stand for such offices.)

As it happens, in 2011 the Alabama state legislature passed a voter ID law as described above, making it impossible to vote in Alabama without a government-issued photo ID. For most Americans, of course, the most common form of government ID—by far—is a driver’s license.

From here, Alabama journalist Kyle Whitmire picks up the thread:

Look at the list of counties now where you can’t get a driver’s license. There’s Choctaw, Sumter, Hale, Greene, Perry, Wilcox, Lowndes, Butler, Crenshaw, Macon, Bullock ...

If you had to memorize all the Alabama Counties in 9th grade, like I did—and even if you forgot most of them, like I have—you can probably guess where we’re going with this.

Depending on which counties you count as being in Alabama’s Black Belt, either twelve or fifteen Black Belt counties soon won’t have a place to get a driver’s license.

Now, I’m going to be honest with you. When I read Whitmire’s article yesterday, I instantly became skeptical. It did not look, to me, that the overlap between the Black Belt and the affected, soon-to-be-non-DMV counties was that strong. After all, if you eliminate services in 29 counties, some of the counties are going to be in the Black Belt, that’s only fair and not necessarily an indication of shenanigans. In fact, to my eye, the map of the affected counties looked like it might be a fair distribution in geographical terms to spread the inconvenience around the state equally.

But I may have underestimated how devious the planners were.

I decided to crunch the numbers, with the help of the 2010 census results for Alabama, which of course have demographic data on race associated with each county. You can find that data here

What I found was extremely concerning, if you are troubled by the rise of a new Jim Crow.

Alabama has 67 counties. Of that set, 29 of them are going to find themselves without DMV services, while 38 counties will continue to have DMV offices. If you take the 29 counties that will not have DMV services, the average percentage of black population is 35.2%. For the other 38 counties, the ones that will still have local access to a DMV office, the average black population is considerably lower, at 22.2%.

I’m going to repeat that:

29 counties without DMV: 35.2% black
38 counties with DMV: 22.2% black

It gets worse.

Of the top 10 “blackest” counties in Alabama (Bullock, Dallas, Greene, Hale, Lowndes, Macon, Montgomery, Perry, Sumter, Wilcox), fully 8 of them will no longer have a DMV. If you restrict the set to the 6 blackest counties (Bullock, Greene, Lowndes, Macon, Sumter, Wilcox), none of them—repeat, none of them—are going to have a DMV office.

Meanwhile, of the top 10 whitest counties in Alabama (Blount, Cherokee, Cleburne, Cullman, DeKalb, Franklin, Jackson, Marion, Marshall, Winston), only 4 will be deprived of a DMV office. For the more restricted set of the 5 whitest counties (Blount, Cullman, DeKalb, Marshall, Winston), only 1 will have its DMV office taken away.

As I indicated, I didn’t want to take some journalist’s word that there were electoral shenanigans going on (although in principle I was perfectly willing to believe that such things do happen, of course). But a quick look at the numbers does suggest that some nefarious things are going on with the closing of these drivers’ license agencies.

If you are the powerful interests in a state, and you cannot win elections legitimately, then you will find illegitimate ways to win elections. Such shenanigans are legion, and almost always concentrated among conservative interests. My favorite for sheer dickishness are the myriads of leaflets that get distributed in impoverished and minority-heavy locations that helpfully remind citizens “to vote this Wednesday!”—i.e. one day AFTER Election Day, or the ones in the same neighborhoods that imply that outstanding parking tickets may cause one to be ineligible to vote—which of course is nonsense.

Remember, nowadays, whenever you hear of anyone complaining about voter fraud, they’re actually trying to deprive Democratic voters and minorities and lower-income people of their right to vote. And when you hear about the closing of driver’s license offices, it’s likely that there is some connection with VoterID laws that require a driver’s license to cast a ballot.

After the jump, helpful maps and demographic data so that you can crunch the same numbers yourself!

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Provocative photos show Flemish traditional costumes worn by men and women of color
10:46 am


Maxine Helfman
Flemish art

For anyone who has spent much time in museums gazing at canvas after canvas of pasty and wealthy snoots from the Low Countries, Maxine Helfman’s “Historical Correction” series of photographs is likely to seem a breath of fresh air. Helfman, who is a white woman in her early sixties and has always adored Flemish portraiture of the 1400-1700 period, started thinking about the people who never qualified for inclusion in the works of Jacob van Utrecht and Bernard van Orley. So, in her series of photographs, Helfman has replaced the faces of those pasty Flemish nobles with those of modern men and women of color.

The power relations inherent in 1542 Flanders, with white Europeans plundering the globe for resources, land, labor—things aren’t so different today, Helfman’s portraits seem to say. Why do these stately portraits seem odd? Do they seem odd? Why aren’t we used to that? The most powerful man on the planet is the direct (and recent) descendant of a Kenyan citizen, and yet that template doesn’t seem likely to recapitulate itself in the future. (And the senseless tragedies of Ferguson, Staten Island, Baltimore, Cleveland still ring in our ears.)

To the Huffington Post Helfman commented, “My intention is to produce bodies of work that look at history and issues of inequality. ... My projects are always shot from a point of respect for my subjects.” In other recent projects, Helfman has worked with black women posing as geishas and boys wearing dresses as a way of fucking with our expectations regarding identity.

Helfman’s fictional narratives provide a different view on history and culture. By blending subjects of color from today with the inescapably classist modes of expression from the distant past, she implies that disentangling race and class might not be possible at the present time. This is not an irreverent project, commented Helfman to CNN. “I never want to create something that’s tongue-in-cheek because that defeats the purpose. ... It’s disrespectful to the [statement] I’m trying to make.” 

And of course, it’s not the final word, by any stretch: “All of my projects begin with that concept,” she says. “It is the conversation that is generated that is fascinating … positive and negative.”


More “Historical Corrections” after the jump…...

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Black metal murderer releases terrible white supremacist role playing game
03:16 pm


Varg Vikernes

Guiding spirit of black metal Varg Vikernes spent 15 years in a Norwegian prison cell for the crime of murdering his fellow black metal practitioner Øystein Aarseth (a.k.a. Euronymous) in August 1993. It is also alleged that he was involved in the burning of at least three churches, although Vikernes denies this. Charmingly enough, on the cover of the EP Aske, released in 1992 by Vikernes’ one-man music project Burzum is a black-and-white picture of one of the churches he is alleged to have torched (the title is also the Norwegian word for “ashes”). (Anyone wishing to learn more about the whole bloody mess is encouraged to check out Michael Moynihan and Didrik Soderlind’s Lords of Chaos: The Bloody Rise of the Satanic Metal Underground.)

Vikernes was released on parole in 2009 and currently resides in France, where, according to Wikipedia, Vikernes “promotes a neo-völkisch ideology (Odalism) based on the idea that White Europeans should re-adopt native European values, including elements of traditional paganism.” He has also released a RPG similar to Dungeons & Dragons called Myfarog that espouses explicitly white supremacist beliefs.

The name Myfarog is a kind of acronym, standing for “MYthic FAntasy ROle-playing Game.” Intrepid reporter Jeff Treppel at Metal Sucks went and acquired a copy of the game (it’s a book, really) and wrote up an incisive account of why it’s a terrible game and also, far more important, why it’s a really racist game. As Treppel writes: “Look, I’m not stupid. ... You want to know just how racist this RPG is. Well, spoiler: it’s really fucking racist.” The game is designed to propagate Vikernes’ white supremacist beliefs, and it does that with no noticeable subtlety.

Here’s Treppel’s summary of the racial schema used in Myfarog:

There are a wide variety of races available for the player to choose from, as long as that race is Scandinavian. The lighter the hair and the fairer the skin, the more blessed by the gods your character is. And, of course, the higher born the better. Nobles are naturally superior to the peasantry in this world. It’s the natural order of things.

Treppel also includes an image from the book, a full page describing the groups that correlate to Christians, Muslims, and Jews in the Myfarog schema, which is so disgusting that Treppel declines to summarize the contents. Suffice it to say that

People of Middle Eastern and African descent are represented. They are the “filthy”, “vulgar”, “poorly educated”, “animalistic” Koparmenn (“Copper Men”). You can’t play them; they are intended to be cannon fodder. There are two varieties of Copper Men: the Skrælingr (“Weaklings”) and the Myrklingr (“Darklings”). I’m pretty sure that the Weaklings are supposed to be Semitic people, as they receive a bonus to trickery. The Darklings, meanwhile, receive a bonus to spear throwing. You can guess who they’re supposed to represent.

As Treppel points out, this summary of the “motivations for adventure” concludes with a description of a campaign in which you must defend a realm from “savage and subhuman Koparmenn and untrustworthy Eirmenn” that is indistinguishable from ethnic cleansing:

As mentioned, the game is apparently so convoluted that it’s well-nigh unplayable, so it’s just too bad if you happen to be a big fan of Nazi ideologies!

Here’s a commercial for the game from last October:

After the jump, Vikernes discusses the relationship between a survivalist worldview and RPGs…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Artist creates hyperrealistic sculptures of LA gang members as skin-rugs
10:54 am


Renato Garza Cervera

Check out artist Renato Garza Cervera‘s super-disturbing series “Of Genuine Contemporary Beast.” Cervera created sculptures depicting L.A. gang members as rugs, complete with the hokey feral faces a taxidermist would give a tiger or bearskin. If you’re revolted by such a racist and inhumane depiction of dead young men, congratulations—that’s the intended effect; Cervera’s work is supposed to produce discomfort with blatant dehumanization.

Societies always invent new beasts in order to make others responsible for their problems, to express their fears and to invent them a new cover. Mass media play a very important role on this world-wide scapegoating process, by presenting some minorities as uncapable of thinking or feeling, delayed and dispensable people.

The startling detail in the tattoos and skin of each sculpture—right down to their anuses—contrasts so intensely with the uniformity of their faces; the effect is the kind of uncanny creepiness that inspires nightmares.


More of these creepy and provocative artworks after the jump…...

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Take a look at the real ‘Warriors’ from the 1993 documentary film ‘Flyin’ Cut Sleeves’
10:09 am

Class War

Flyin' Cut Sleeves

Savage Skulls gang, Bronx NY
Members of the Savage Skulls circa late 60’s, early 70’s
In the ‘60s and ‘70s, gangs not unlike the ones featured in Walter Hill’s The Warriors owned the streets of New York City. The 1993 documentary film Flyin’ Cut Sleeves takes a look back at the volatile years that eventually culminated in a truce and subsequent “peace meeting” held at the Hoe Avenue Boys Club in 1971 by the gangs themselves. The real-life events are strikingly similar to the storyline from Hill’s 1979 film.
Young members of the Savage Skulls gang
Young members of the Savage Skulls
According to the statements made in Flyin’ Cut Sleeves, in 1969 the NYPD put the number of organized gangs at 100, with membership as high as 11,000. Many gang members were just kids, barely in high school. Some of the most compelling footage in the film comes from interviews that were shot by Rita Fecher, a schoolteacher working at that time in the South Bronx. From her interviews with her students, Fecher was able to glean that the vast majority of her pupils were also active gang members. It is a gritty and dark exploration of a desperate time in New York City—Fecher notes at one point in the film that she received an absence note from a family that could not send their child to school because he had no shoes.

Flyin’ Cut Sleeves was released on DVD in 2010, and you can score a copy here. I’ve included a slew of vintage images of many of the gangs featured in the film as well as Flyin’ Cut Sleeves in its entirety. There’s also a brief NSFW video that was shot at the Hoe Avenue Peace Meeting for you to check out.
Gangs of the South Bronx in the 1970's
Sagave Skulls gang members
After the jump, more remarkable images of the Flyin’ Cut Sleeves gangs as well as the full movie (and a bonus video too).....

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
How a Confederate flag nearly stalled Otis Redding’s career

One could be forgiven, perhaps, for thinking that the recent and ongoing national conversation (or racist jagoff chest-thumping tantrum, if you prefer) about the appropriateness of Confederate flag display is a new thing. But that point of view is ahistorical; this isn’t new, just newly launched into noisier, more vigorous debate. That symbol has been considered divisive and offensive for quite a long time.

For example, as early as 1961, that flag kept an early Otis Redding single from receiving airplay! Redding’s second single, the acutely Little Richard-ish “Fat Gal/Shout Bamalama,” was released in 1961 on a label called “Confederate Records,” an imprint owned by a young white Georgia car salesman named Bobby Smith. The center label on Confederate’s releases, unsurprisingly, was a design based on the Confederate flag, which all by itself was a good enough reason for R&B DJs to utterly disregard the single. From an article in the December, 2007 issue of Atlanta magazine:

A rebel flag crisscrosses the first vinyl single of “Shout Bamalama,” released by the Confederate Records label in 1961. Consequently, African American disc jockeys chucked it into the trash without bothering to listen. Had they put the needle to the groove, they would’ve heard Otis Redding belting out his jump-blues tribute to Bamalama, a one-eyed busker who played a washboard with a thimble. It was another inauspicious break for the Macon vocalist, who was reportedly booed off the stage, in tears, the first time he performed outside of church.


Georgia had incorporated that flag into its own in 1956, as an explicit thumbs-up to white supremacy and segregation. Having been advised that adopting it as a logo for his wares was doing him no favors with his intended audience, the no longer so clueless Smith reissued the recording on Orbit Records, an ad hoc label he started for the sole purpose of getting the pariah Dixie flag off of Redding’s single. Per Smith himself:

Otis and I went on the road promoting “Shout Bamalama”. Stopping at Augusta radio station WTHB, we were told by the DJ it would be played if it were taken off the Confederate-flagged record label. I promised to do so. We went on to Columbia, SC and met with a program director, Big Saul at radio station WOIC, who also promised heavy play, but only if the label was changed. Otis and I hit it off very well with Big Saul. As we drove and listened to legendary DJ John R on Nashville ’s WLAC, Otis said, “Bobby, if that man played my record I would think I had made it”. When we returned to Macon, I wasted no time creating the Orbit label and putting “Shout Bamalama” on it. The following week I went to Nashville and talked to John R, and I explained the situation with Confederate and Orbit. John R was impressed with the record and promised me he would give it heavy duty air play.


No version of the record would get much attention, let alone “heavy duty air play,” but that would all be moot soon enough, as Smith would amicably part ways with Redding in 1962, when Redding leveled up to record for labels like Stax/Volt and Atlantic/Atco (neither of which sported the banners of states that committed treason in the name of preserving a human trafficking economy and surrendered unconditionally 100 years prior). And then, of course, rock history 101 happened, and Redding’s excellent Monterey International Pop Music Festival appearance brought him mass-audience attention, just six months before his tragic death in a plane crash at the age of 26 robbed the world of his potential.

Here’s that single, “Fat Gal” backed with “Shout Bamalama.”


Bonus! Check out the early Redding song which was the basis for “Shout Bamalama,” “Gamma Lama.”

Gratitude to Art Chantry for bringing this to our attention.

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Brawl over the Confederate flag spills into the streets outside of South Carolina’s statehouse
09:44 am


South Carolina
Confederate flag

Photo posted to Facebook of the scene outside the South Carolina statehouse during a brawl over the Confederate flag.
At approximately 7:15 PM on June 29th, a brawl broke out in front of the South Carolina statehouse between supporters of the Confederate flag and protesters seeking to have it removed from the statehouse grounds.

According to the Bureau of Protective Services, about 30 anti-flag protesters were on statehouse grounds when a group of fifteen vehicles carrying pro-flag supporters pulled up and stopped in the middle of Gervais Street, in front of the statehouse. Between eight and ten occupants exited their vehicles and began to engage in an altercation with the crowd.

One eyewitness claimed tensions escalated when a convoy of Confederate flag supporters began shouting “racist remarks” from their vehicles at anti-flag protesters.

According to another eyewitness, a Confederate flag was ripped from a passing car of hecklers. The car following behind stopped, and a passenger emerged, confronting the crowd, inciting the brawl.

Another eyewitness stated, “several people were fighting and it spilled into Gervais St, and some people started pulling over and getting out of their cars to join in. Police began separating the two groups and pushing them back onto the statehouse grounds, and then a small group charged the other group, a quick secondary scuffle broke out, and then the small group took off running with several dudes chasing them behind the capitol.”

One man was arrested at the scene and charged with disorderly conduct.

An anti-Confederate flag rally on June 20th attracted nearly 2000 protesters. A similar rally is scheduled for July 4th. The Ku Klux Klan has also scheduled a pro-Confederate flag rally for July 18. It looks like it’s going to be a long, hot summer.

Here is eyewitness footage of the fight:

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
‘God don’t like ugly’: Confederate flag parade in Georgia goes hilariously WRONG!

This had me on the floor laughing and crying, not the least because of the hilarious commentary coming from behind the camera which predicts what’s to come. But what happens at the end is just too, too perfect. Thank god for smartphones or else we wouldn’t be laughing about these dipsy doodles and their instant karma.

This is less than two minutes long, watch the entire thing and know that your time will be well-rewarded.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
On the wrong side of history: Scenes from a South Carolina pro-Confederate flag rally

Fulfilling my obligations as Dangerous Minds’ Senior Southern Affairs correspondent, I wrote last week about the deadly church shooting in Charleston which took the lives of Cynthia Marie Graham Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lee Lance, Depayne Middleton-Doctor, Clementa C. Pinckney, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel Simmons, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, and Myra Thompson. That article examined the whirlwind of events that took place in the week following the murders, most notably Governor Nikki Haley and several flip-flopping Republican lawmakers calling for the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the SC statehouse grounds.

In the few days since, there have been several newsworthy events related to the shooting, the white-supremacist ideology behind it, and the Confederate flag issue. Friday saw President Obama give a moving eulogy for slain South Carolina State Senator Clementa Pinckney, which included a pitchy, but truly tear-jerking rendition of “Amazing Grace” sung by the POTUS himself. On Saturday, activist and fearless badass, Bree Newsome, in an inspiring display of civil disobedience, shimmied the 30 foot SC statehouse flagpole and removed the Confederate flag before being arrested by State Troopers. Also, in the past week a string of nighttime fires have hit at least six predominantly black churches in Southern states.

Saturday morning, June 27, just a few hours after Bree Newsome’s act of civil disobedience, a rally was held at the SC statehouse, organized by supporters of the Confederate flag, expressing their desire to keep the antiquated banner flying in front of the seat of South Carolina government. In contrast to a rally held last week calling for the removal of the Confederate flag from the statehouse grounds which attracted nearly 2000 people, Saturday’s pro-flag rally attracted approximately 50 self-professed “history scholars.”

June 27th South Carolina statehouse flag rally. All photos by Bickel.
A Facebook post listed the rally as taking place between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm. I snapped photos between 10:30 and 11:00 am. There was relatively little media covering the “event.” The flag supporters dispersed later in the day when both a rainstorm and about 50 members of the “Better Consciousness Foundation,” a group comprised of leaders from the Bloods, Folk Nation (G.D.N), and the Crips, organized for social justice, arrived on the scene.

Here are my photos from the “Save the Flag” rally. Click on the thumbnail to see a larger version. The turnout was so adorably pathetic, you almost feel sorry for them. As we say in South Carolina, “bless their hearts.”

Fittingly lonesome visual statement on the “keep the flag” camp. Click on image for larger version.

A man, identified by onlookers as “maybe Katt Williams’ cousin” displays his Southern pride.

The protesters went to great lengths to frame themselves as non-racists. This lady yelled to reporters at the scene, “I bet y’all won’t report this: I had dinner with a black man last night!” She then said, I shit you not, “some of my best friends are black people.” A man to her right chimed in that he was willing to bet it was a great dinner because “black people know how to cook.”

In all probability, you is.

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
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