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Little-Known Black History Fact: Mary Alexander & Coca-Cola

Posted by BuellBoy

Mary Alexander in Coco-Cola in 1955

Mary Alexander in Coco-Cola ad in 1955

The year 1955 was like a dream come true for Mary Alexander of Ocala, Florida. She was a junior at Clark College in Atlanta, Georgia concentrating on her studies when her dorm mother insisted that she go to a local audition for a Coca-Cola promotion on campus. Little did Alexander know that she would become the first Black woman to be featured in a Coca-Cola ad – the first non-athlete, that is.

Coming to the city of Atlanta from her meager farmhouse beginnings in Ball Play, Alabama, Alexander never thought she could compete against the candidates from Spelman and Morris Brown College.

Alexander’s first ad was published in Ebony magazine that same year, along with several black newspapers. She would continue working with the company, shooting another 15 ads. Overall, Alexander would earn about $1,500 modeling for Coke, even though no one knew her name. By the way, she finally gained her father’s approval when she brought a check home for $600.

It was only because a family friend who saw the ad in her home took a copy back to Coca-Cola headquarters in Atlanta that Coke found their black beauty. After all these years, a name would be put to the face.

Coca-Cola recognized Alexander for being a pioneer in the company’s efforts to reach more African-Americans. Several of the ads she appeared in are on display in the new World of Coca-Cola museum in Atlanta. They also held a reception in her honor.

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Black History Month…Re-Imagined

Thoughts by WillieBeyond

I know February is Black history month, but I feel during this month a lot of the focus is on the past, that is very distant from the present.  Not that this history isn’t important, but I feel as we talk about the past we forget some of the things we are doing in the present.  Everyone one will say the greatest thing to happen in Black history recently, would be the election of President Barack Obama. I have mixed feelings about that statement.  This post isn’t about recognizing what will be in a book fifty years from now, but more about realizing the important events that have happened that won’t be recorded.  I would like to have Black History Month changed to Black Culture Appreciation Month or something like that.  I feel a lot of the troubles people get into is because they can only think of the good times of the past, but not of the silver lining in the clouds of the present.  Remember, segregation was no joke, but now we celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King because segregation isn’t legal now (kinda sorta, depends on who you ask).  So lets think of the things that are happening now.

One of the things I feel should be marked and mention this Black Awareness Month (yeah, I like the sound of that) is Dave Chappelle.  Now before anyone gets upset, I am not one of those people who looks to celebrities, as a guideline for how to be happy.  Chappelle just happens to be a really good person to remember for one major reason.  Now we can all Wikipedia the info on Dave Chappelle, but I want us all to think of his actions.  The one I am mostly referencing is his decision to not do a Season 3.  He had the number one show and it was rising, but he stepped away for ethical reasons. I think that should be something that is marked down in history.  Everyone presented his refusal to do Season 3 as either a smart business move to make more money, or as just stupid and an effect of his mind spiraling out of control.  No one said it could just be for him wanting a better place to work (in an “I can sleep a night kind of way”).  Here is someone who had the integrity to step back and go “I don’t want to work at a place where I can’t feel good.”)

I think this action speaks louder than anything else as far as personal standards in my lifetime.  And yes I know Jerry Seinfeld also quit when his show was on the top.  But the huge difference in my mind is Chappelle had a wider resume than Seinfeld and Seinfeld was starting to peak, while Chappelle was still rising (look at season 4 and 5 of Seinfeld and tell me season 9 was as good).  But what do I know, it is just my opinion.  Also, because it doesn’t really matter, I feel I should take this time to point out Chappelle is a Muslim.  That’s right all you people who say Islam and Muslim is bad and yell out I’m Rick James (you know it…don’t lie to yourself) you were laughing a Muslim’s man sense of humor.  Also I don’t want this to be a thing where we forget about the person.  Yes, Dave Chappelle is a Muslim, yes he made us all laugh in one way or the other, and yes he got paid, but most importantly he is a man with a family.  He never let that escape his thought process. He is a man who has to live with himself, and that is what makes him one of my role models.

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