Propaganda & Mass Persuasion: The Brownies' Book

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Brownies' Book

The Brownies' Book was published for only about two years, from January 1920 to December of 1921. It was an independent enterprise, yet appealed to the youth faction of Crisis, the NAACP's magazine. W.E.B. DuBois, Jessie Redmond Fauset and Augustus Granville Dill were the magazine's editors, and the NAACP published it monthly.


The magazine sought appeal from a specific demographic; young African-American men. Girls were also featured, but the themes of integrated patriotism and the fight for desegregation and equality were noticeably aimed toward males.


This form of propaganda, the furthering of one cause, incidentally promoting another, was seen during the Spanish American war as well. while African-American men fought for their country, oppressing the natives of the Phillipines, Cuba and Puerto Rico, their sensitivities had to be lain aside while they embraced their inclusion in the military, and ultimately as part of American Society.


There is an unspoken belief in America that anyone who serves their country deserves the rights of that nation.


Brownies' Book was the precedent to the Army's well-placed, glossy ads proclaiming "Be All You Can Be" in magazines such as Ebony, Jet, and Essence.


Tantalizing ads promising "Easy Transition from High School to Flight School" sought to seduce young men and women with limited options, without disclosing the hardships and racism they were sure to address in actual military life.


In the Brownies' Book, Mildred Barfield (winner of an essay contest) wrote this heartwarming and timely essay in which two young men, one white, one brown, are mesmerized by the glamour of the United States Army.


They tremble at the sound of the man's voice; it makes them 'feel funny and warm'- two orphans, no sense of belonging, they finally find their home (and their Daddy) in the U.S. Army.


Big score for the Army; but an even bigger one for civil rights. Nobody even cares anymore what color Sam and Billy are, because they will be soldiers...and for two orphan boys with very few options, that's looking pretty good. A picture of Mildred is inserted for validity and as a reminder, that she is a good girl, a smart girl, and she would really like a young patriotic boy.


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