Celebrating Black history in advertising and beyond

From food to music, civil rights to advertising campaigns, the influence of Black history is undeniable.

February 9, 2024
Public Relations & Social Media Manager

Formerly a week-long celebration, Black History Month officially began in 1976 under President Gerald Ford “to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” This means that many of us have been celebrating Black History Month our entire lives and yet, there is still so much to learn.

Last year, our Chernoff Newman D&I Committee embarked on an internal educational series to celebrate Black History Month. While working on this series, the phrase “Keep Learning. Keep Growing.”  evolved and this became our goal — to facilitate opportunities to keep learning and growing.

In the spirit of learning, we are sharing what we learned as well as our resources. We encourage you to celebrate and elevate Black stories this Black History Month and beyond.

Black Slavery & The Civil Rights Movement

As an agency originally founded in South Carolina, it is imperative to acknowledge that we are in the heart of where slavery flourished. The Southeast is also where the Civil Rights Movement that ratified the lives of African Americans occurred. Below are resources exploring the plight of African Americans leading up to the Civil Rights Movement, from the transatlantic slave trade, which began in the early 1500s, to the Civil Rights Act of 1968.

Black History Makers in the Advertising Industry

Many Black professionals have made exceptional contributions to our industry and continue to keep the ad world innovative and inclusive. We are highlighting five who have made an impact and are recognized by the American Advertising Federation (AAF) through the AAF Mosaic Center and AAF Hall of Fame.

Louis Carr | President of Media Sales, BET

A standout leader in the media world, his expertise and dedication has led to many rightful recognitions. He was named one of the Most Influential Black Corporate Directors by Savoy Magazine and was awarded the 2022 Media Award from the ANA Educational Foundation (AEF).

Renetta McCann | Chief Inclusion Experience Officer, Publicis Groupe

Renetta’s leadership has already left a lasting impact on the advertising, marketing and media industries. Recognized for breaking barriers, she has received many accolades such as the ADCOLOR Lifetime Achievement Award, Sheldon J. Levy Leadership Award and AAF Chicago’s Silver Medal Award.

Carol H. Williams | Owner, President, CEO & Chief Creative Officer of Carol H. Williams Advertising

Carol founded her advertising company in 1986, driven by the need for African Americans to have opportunities to create advertising for influential and ethnic markets. She was inducted into the AAF Advertising Hall of Fame in 2017 and remains an influential voice for the Black community.

Gary Coichy | Head of Partnerships, Pod Digital Media

Gary carved out a successful advertising career before founding Pod Digital Media in 2018. The first multi-cultural podcast network, Pod Digital Media originated to connect marketers with diverse podcasters and has expanded to include an influencer marketing division.

Ukonwa Ojo | Founder/CEO, Zaia Holdings

With more than 20 years of expertise in marketing and advertising, Ukonwa Ojo has won over 50 awards and distinctions for her work in generating innovative and inspiring campaigns. She recently founded Zaia Ventures, a company committed to creating and scaling businesses for underrepresented and marginalized communities.

For the Love of Food and Music

Two of the universal languages — food and music — have been shared and revered for centuries. In the Southeast, both have been heavily influenced by African Americans. Eating good food and listening to music are two of my favorite simple joys in life, so I’m excited to share a little bit of history and a few resources.

Much of the delicious Southern food we all love is soul food, a term used to describe ethnic cuisine traditionally prepared and eaten by African Americans. It has a rich and important history that ties Black culture to its African roots, and that history is deeply reflected in the staple recipes and techniques. In soul food cooking, there are four key ingredients that establish a historical link to America’s dark slavery past and the African cultures that the enslaved carried with them: rice, okra, pork and greens. You can read more about these staples in this article: The Humble History of Soul Food.

And check out the below articles and videos to learn even more about the impact Black culture has had defining American cuisine:

Hungry now? Here are some Black owned/soul food restaurants you can visit in our cities. Bonus: nearly all listed in South Carolina are part of the S.C. Department of Agriculture’s Fresh on the Menu program.

Switching from the sense of taste to the sense of hearing — nearly every music genre has been influenced by Black artists. From blues to EDM, their impact on the music industry transcends time and trends. Black artists continue to make history as evidenced by these historical achievements from the 2023 and 2024 Grammy Awards:

  • This year, SZA won Best R&B Song and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance, Victoria Monét won Best New Artist and  Tyla won the Grammy for Best African Music Performance in the category’s inaugural year.
  • In 2023, Beyoncé became the most-awarded artist in Grammy history with 32 awards.
  • Viola Davis became the 3rd Black woman to achieve EGOT status, taking home the award for Best Audio Book for her memoir Finding Me.

Interested in a little more music history?

Bonus video: I would be remiss not to use this opportunity to share the iconic video of Oprah Winfrey’s Gospel Brunch during the 2005 Legends Ball. You will not only hear and see this video, but you will feel it. Enjoy!

It’s important to celebrate Black History Month and educate ourselves of the accomplishments of African Americans and their impact on our daily lives. From traditional dishes to historical movements, the influence of Black history is undeniable. I hope this post has inspired you to share Black history and reminded you that Black History is American History.

Chernoff Newman has deep category experience in agriculture, food and beverage, education and workforce development, energy, economic development, financial/insurance, healthcare and infrastructure. We design integrated marketing and strategic communications that are impactful, thought-provoking and influential. We marry ingenuity with business know-how to influence beliefs and behaviors for brands, companies and their many stakeholders. We influence attitude and inclination. We influence opinion and outcomes. And when needed, we also influence to quell contention.