February is Black History Month in the United States, and I thought you might be interested in a story about one of our first African-American models.
While Coke had featured African-American celebrities and athletes in ads, a model named Mary Cowser (today Mary Alexander) was one of the first non-celebrity African-American women to appear in our ads.
I’ve mentioned that at the New World of
Ms. Alexander had been a junior at Clark College in Atlanta in 1955 when Coke came to campus to find models for a new print campaign. Ms. Alexander’s dorm housemother encouraged her to try out and she was selected as one of the featured models in a program that appeared in newspapers, magazines and posters. In all, she appeared in more than 10 ads for Coke, appearing with fellow students from Clark and Morehouse College (also in Atlanta). She earned enough money in her first year modeling for Coke to pay that year’s tuition.
The ads appeared in magazines such as Ebony, in New York subway ads and on billboards across the country. Ms. Alexander said her brother saw one of her billboards while driving in Mississippi, but no one believed that was really his sister!
Ms. Alexander graduated from Clark in 1956, becoming a teacher and principal. She did not model again, but we were able to bring her to Atlanta in August for a trip to the World of
I was thrilled to meet her in person, and we were all grateful to hear her story.
More on Journey
Photographer Ernest Withers Had an Eye on History,
- Opinion: Setting the Record Straight on Coke, Racism and Civil Rights
Honoring a Native Son:
Coca-ColaExhibit, Panel Pay Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and His Nobel Peace Prize
- Carhop To It: 5 Classic American Drive-In Restaurants
- Inspired Objects: Artist Burton Morris Reinterprets Pop Culture Icons