Inside Joseph V. Baker Associate’s “Inside Brown America”

Monday, November 16, 2020

A small but notable addition was made in October to Hagley Library’s Digital Archive. The library’s limited holdings of the newsletter Inside Brown America is our newest digital collection. This serial publication was a joint project of Philadelphia’s Institute of Industrial Race Relations and Joseph V. Baker Associates, a public relations firm founded by Joseph V. Baker (1908-1993).

Baker was a prominent Black journalist and public relations specialist working out of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. After his family relocated to Philadelphia from South Carolina in the 1920s, Baker attended Temple University as a journalism student. After graduating, he began work at the Philadelphia Tribune, the city’s Black newspaper, where he would eventually work as city editor. Baker would also write for The Philadelphia Inquirer, where he became the paper’s first Black journalist.

After leaving the Tribune, Baker was hired by the Pennsylvania Railroad as a Public Relations consultant, which began his career in the field. Joseph V. Baker Associates was founded in New York in 1934, making it one of the nation’s first Black-owned public relations firms. Under Baker’s leadership, the agency’s clients included various large corporations and educational institutions. In addition to the Pennsylvania Railroad, its client list featured corporations such as the Gillette Corporation, RCA, Procter & Gamble, Chrysler, DuPont, U.S. Steel, Western Union, NBC, the California and Ohio state Republican parties, as well as a number of famous Black entertainers.

Inside Brown America was one of a number of publications that his firm produced. It served to provide Joseph V. Baker Associates' clients with updates on political and economic developments related to Black America. In keeping with Baker’s efforts to persuade companies that hiring Black workers would generate good press and brand loyalty from Black consumers, the newsletter also included news related to Black trade associations and of notable additions of Black professional staff to various corporate entities and government bodies.

The newsletter was also one of the firm’s more short-lived publishing projects, which also included titles like Caravan, The Watchman (published for the American Insurance Association), The Wayfarer (for the Chrysler Motors Corporation), On the Track (for the Association of American Railroads), the entertainment industry journal The Baton, The Industrial Statesman, and The Brown American magazine. Inside Brown America appears to have only run from February 1952 to November 1953, and few copies of it have been archived in any concentrated form; most extant copies are single issues scattered throughout archival collections documenting corporate bodies in archives nationwide. In addition to Hagley Library’s holdings, a partial run of the publication dating from January 1953 to its final November 1953 issue also exists in the National Broadcasting Company Records, 1921-1976 of the Wisconsin Historical Society. No other digitized record of the publication appears to exist at this time.

To view the digital collection of our holdings of Inside Brown America online now, click here.

Skylar Harris is the Digitization and Metadata Coordinator Audiovisual Collections & Digital Initiatives Department at Hagley Museum and Library.