Pride and Prejudice

A selection of ’70s ads depicting African Americans.


“Unbranded” is a series of images taken from magazine advertisements targeting a black audience or featuring black subjects, which I digitally manipulated and appropriated. In this work-in-progress project that will ultimately span from 1969 through the present, I have removed all aspects of advertising information, e.g., text, logos, in order to reveal what is being sold. Nothing more has been altered. I believe that in part, advertising’s success rests on its ability to reinforce generalizations around race, gender, and ethnicity that can be entertaining, sometimes true, and sometimes horrifying, but which at a core level are a reflection of the way a culture views itself or aspirations. By “Unbranding” advertisements I can literally expose what Roland Barthes refers to as “what-goes-without-saying” in ads, and hopefully encourage viewers to look harder and think deeper about the empire of signs that have become second nature to our experience of life in the modern world.

Who Can Say No to a Gorgeous Brunette (1970/2007)
 

Pucker Up! (1972/2008)
 

Kama Mama, Kama Binti (Like Mother, Like Daughter) 1971/2008
 

We Are On Our Way (1970/2008)
 

Can You Dig It? (1974/2007)
 

Are You the Right Kind of Woman For It? (1974/2007)
 

“Smokin Joe Ain’t Je’mama” (1978/2006)
 

The Johnson Family Portrait (1981/2006)

 

Fact:

Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn’t fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation so we can keep on doing the type of journalism that 2018 demands.

Donate Now
  • Hank Willis Thomas is a contributing photographer for Mother Jones. His photography has appeared in various collections and galleries across the country. For more of his work, click here.