Friday, February 4, 2011

“These Legs Were Not Made to Kick a Football”

In preparation for Super Bowl XLV, earlier this week we featured a post about the Brown Bombers, a professional all-black football team based in Harlem in the 1930s. Fritz Pollard, the team’s founder, used creative methods to promote the team, including publishing The Brown Bomber Journal. Several issues of the journal are in our rare periodicals collection.

The Brown Bomber Journal was a news magazine with a bit of something for everyone. Pollard recognized that the black elite frequently came from the fields of sports and entertainment, and thus had much in common. Both top athletes and entertainers received wide acclaim for their accomplishments, were highly paid, and often had to develop signature styles to stand out and achieve success in the white-dominated establishment. Therefore, it made sense to cover topics of interest to the elite (and to the aspiring elite) in one publication.

Unsurprisingly, the Brown Bombers are highlighted throughout the magazine. The sports section introduces the players, noting their stats, honors, and playing history. The accompanying photographs, pictured above to the left, capture the Brown Bombers in poses that highlight their athleticism.

The magazine’s society pages include photographs and announcements about travel plans and social events. A photograph of a Bombers fan is also featured prominently. The fashion section, above to the right, illustrates popular designs of the Fall 1936 season, whose rich colors were influenced by the impending coronation of Edward VIII of England.

Advertisements fill the journal’s back pages, providing a glimpse into the types of services and products that were used by and marketed to African Americans. Even among the ads, there is an announcement to promote the Brown Bombers through a popularity contest for young ladies, pictured above. Women who sold the most tickets were eligible for prizes, including a raccoon fur coat, diamond ring, and clothing.

As a source of popular culture, The Brown Bomber Journal is fun to look at. At the same time, the magazine also provides a wealth of historical information about the educational levels, professions, family connections, and social activities of black New Yorkers in the 1930s.


John Carroll, Fritz Pollard: A Pioneer in Racial Advancement (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1992)

Posted by Krystal Appiah, Brown University, former AARL Archives Intern

No comments:

Post a Comment