Dr. Tarrell Portman
Participation year
Project title

American Perception of African-American men Between the Years 1950-2010


The purpose of this research was to examine whether, and if so, how mainstream American perceptions of Black men have changed between the years 1950 and 2010. I hypothesized that although progress has been made in positively portraying some affluent Black men, the majority of American society appears to still cling to negative stereotypes and images of Black men created prior to 1950, primarily surrounding slavery. Methods used included collecting information from books, search databases such as America: History and Life, historical newspaper databases, and released governmental documents, film and television shows, billboards, speeches, court cases, etc., to compare with dominant tropes of Black men from as early as slavery. Four categories were used to compile this information under, including Television and Film, Government, Law Enforcement, Sports Media & Athletes. Findings showed that although the nature of the reliance on these images and caricatures has changed from more overt to covert, cross-cultural materials continue to promote perceptions of Black men that rely on the same stereotypes that grounded racist images of Sambo, Uncle Tom, and Nat Turner.

Grinnell College