The Other Mad Men
If the show's creators are really sticklers for detail, there's reason to expect some darker faces at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce before long. In the real world, Don Draper would have been working side-by-side with a brother.
Jason Chambers' 2008 book, Madison Avenue and the Color Line: African Americans in the Advertising Industry, recounts how Madison Avenue's attention began to pivot toward black consumers shortly after Ebony was launched in 1945. Its editorial focus on African-American upward mobility and the acquisition of creature comforts was different from that of black newspapers, whose editorial line tended to embrace a protest model.
Chambers examines the rise of what he calls the "Brown Hucksters," the group of African-American marketing and advertising specialists in the 1950s who helped deep-pocketed advertisers realize that black consumers spent money, too.
In his book, Chambers recounts the career of Georg Olden, an African-American trailblazer in advertising. After the United States entered World War II, Olden, the Alabama-born son of a Baptist preacher, left college and got a job as an artist for the Office of Strategic Services, a precursor to the Central Intelligence Agency. He later went to work at CBS and left there in 1960, at the age of 40, to pursue a new career in advertising. He signed on as the television art group director with BBDO.
In 1963, much in demand, Olden accepted an offer to move to the influential agency McCann Erickson to become vice president and senior art director. That same year, he became the first African-American designer of a postage stamp, a stylized depiction of a broken chain that marked the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. Olden went on to win seven Clios (the advertising industry's equivalent of the Oscars) for his work throughout the 1960s. (Icing on the cake: Olden himself designed the actual Clio statuette, inspired by a Brancusi sculpture.)
Throughout that decade, federal and state governments did what they could to make Olden less of an advertising anomaly.
"The New York City Commission on Human Rights and the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission both focused significant attention on the advertising industry during the 1960s, and their efforts reinforced and extended those introduced by civil rights activists," Chambers writes. "The Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed racial discrimination in employment, broke down many of the visible and invisible barriers to blacks in the advertising industry. As a result, many agencies began to lure black professionals from other industries and to recruit at black colleges."