The Moss Kendrix Collection includes over 900 photographs and a wide range of documents including correspondence, scripts, advertisements, press releases, programs, magazines, reports, and newspaper clippings from around the country, including Virginia. The collection includes the business archive of public relations firm Moss H. Kendrix Organization and Kendrix’s personal collection of contemporary news reporting and publications.
The Moss Kendrix Collection was a 2020 honoree in the Virginia Association of Museums’ Top 10 Endangered Artifacts.
Who was Moss Kendrix?
A man with a vision, Moss Kendrix set up a public relations firm, the Moss H. Kendrix Organization, in 1948 to promote a new approach in marketing – appealing to African American consumers with positive and aspirational advertising campaigns, featuring African American models and stars. Placed in African American newspapers and publications, they appealed directly to readers in a new and empowering way.
Through his public relations work, Kendrix helped to change the way African Americans were depicted in the media. In his advertising campaigns, he appealed to mid-century African Americans by reflecting their reality, where stereotypes or absence had gone
Unfortunately, some of the Moss Kendrix collection has been damaged by prior water and moisture exposure. This has caused staining, curling, and losses to the fragile photographs and documents. Additionally, the paperclips, staples, and glue originally used by Kendrix in creating his archive has left stains and acid burns, damaging and disfiguring the items. Conservation work will help to clean, stabilize, and preserve this important collection for future generations.
Some of the collection has been photographed or scanned and the archive is available to researchers, but the Alexandria Black History Museum hopes in the future to digitize the entire collection to increase access to this amazing collection.
Click on the image or on this link to view the slideshow illustrating some of the damage to the collection.
Make a donation to the Alexandria Black History Museum. If you would like to direct your donation to the Moss Kendrix conservation project, please make a note under Comments on the donation page.
In addition to a company archive, the Moss Kendrix Collection contains Kendrix’s personal archive. He amassed a large collection of press clippings, magazines, newspapers and other publications documenting the African American experience in the mid-20th century. This includes clippings about politics, current affairs, civil rights, sports, and the work of organizations such as the NAACP. It also includes publications such as the Go Guide to Pleasant Motoring. Like the Green Book, the Go Guide was an essential tool for the African American traveler during the Jim Crow era.
Travel Guides for Safe Motoring, Out of the Attic article, Alexandria Times, February 4, 2021
Moss Kendrix also had his own radio show on Sunday nights on WWDC in Washington, D.C. The 15-minute broadcast included commentary on subjects like international politics, national affairs, or civil rights, and interviews with prominent personalities in the news, such as journalists, editors, members of Congress, governors, and “leaders in American thought.” The collection includes scripts for his radio shows.
Kendrix’s organization created advertising campaigns for companies such as Carnation Milk and Coca-Cola. The collection contains a wealth of documents and photographs from these campaigns, including handwritten and drawn mock-ups. His campaigns would also feature promotional events and
sponsorship at sporting and other events.
A colossal bunburger! Carnation Milk partnered with Schneider-Sunbeam for a “bunburger” campaign to promote using evaporated milk in the hamburger meat and burger buns. Moss Kendrix was involved in the publicity, which included the creation of a huge 28” x 36” bun
and hamburger, served to a group of YMCA campers. This recipe will feed 80 of your closest friends. Feel free to divide it by 80 for a single serving.
NAACP Convention Press Release
Moss Kendrix wrote press releases reporting on conferences, conventions, sporting events and meetings and sent them with photographs or original photo montages of the events to African American newspapers and magazines. This press release is about the 1954 NAACP Convention in Dallas, Texas, where The Coca-Cola Company
provided complimentary Coke to attendees.
The Moss Kendrix Legacy
The work of Moss Kendrix and the collection at ABHM have appeared in the following books: Madison Avenue and the Color Line: African Americans in the Advertising Industry by Dr. Jason Chambers and Represented: The Black Imagemakers Who Reimagined African American Citizenship by Dr. Breena Wynn Greer. Check back later at the ABHM homepage for further details of Greer’s upcoming lecture. Kendrix will also appear in a new book by Dr. Denise Hill later this year.
The Moss Kendrix Collection was also featured in the recent Historic Alexandria Winter Portal. The portal explored the winter theme through City museums and collections. In this video on winter advertising, see more documents and photographs from the extensive Kendrix Collection, including some with festive recipes.
Click on the image to view the video.
The Moss Kendrix Collection is a microcosm of mid-20thcentury African American life and an invaluable repository of the African American experience. Moss Kendrix revolutionized the advertising industry, reimagined and repositioned the African American image in the media, and paved the way for the diversity of actors and models who today are featured in print ads and billboards, television and radio commercials.
Moss Kendrix: pioneer, trailblazer, visionary. Out of the Attic, originally published in the Alexandria Times, February 20, 2020
The Moss Kendrix Collection at the Black History Museum. Out of the Attic, originally published in the Alexandria Times, January 14, 2021.
Through his work Moss Kendrix met many famous faces – how many can you recognize?
Click on the image or on this link: The Moss Kendrix Collection: -- Guess Who?
Lecture: Hidden in Plain Sight: Moss Kendrix and the Enterprise to Sell Black Citizenship.
Dr. Brenna Wynn Greer traces how Black public relations guru Moss Hyles Kendrix enlisted white corporate America in a campaign to redefine black citizenship after World War II. Dr. Greer also examines how Kendrix and his work—so visible and so important in the early Cold War era—was almost lost to us. Dr. Greer is Associate Professor of History at Wellesley College, and her first book Represented: The Black Imagemakers Who Reimagined African American Citizenship (University of Pennsylvania Press), is now available for purchase.
This lecture was hosted by Alexandria Black History Museum on February 17, 2021.