Sunday, April 11, 2010
A Supreme Court Candy Moment
When you hear the words "Whitman's Sampler," what does it conjure up? A box of chocolates, designed to resemble a traditional stitched sampler to show its all-American goodness, often presented at holidays or other special occasions? Ever hear of the once-popular Whitman's Pickaninny Peppermints? Here's why not. In 1941 a certain NAACP lawyer named Thurgood Marshall published an article about Whitman's racial insensitivity in a journal called Afro-American. The Whitman's people tried to insist that the term "pickaninny" only meant "cute colored kid." (See Heide's "Black Kids" candy posted here on 03.06.10 -- perhaps that was somebody's idea of an updated and enlightened product name.) Not so coincidentally, after four years of defensive corporate correspondence with Marshall on this topic, Whitman's Pickaninny Peppermints were withdrawn. Thurgood Marshall, of course, went on to become the first African American (or Negro, as he was called at the time) to serve on the US Supreme Court. Today we have a president of color soon to make his second appointment to the Supreme Court bench. Yet another instance of racism and candy product marketing and history that would have been terrific grist for Alice Tatnall Ziplinsky's complex and conflicted mill in True Confections.