Summary

Packet and tube of 'Darkie' toothpaste featuring a caricature black minstrel image. The toothpaste itself is actually white.The product was purchased in the late 1990s at an Asian grocery store 'Tatsing' in Carnegie in Melbourne. It was bought as a novelty item for $1.15 and was never used.

The Hong Kong manufacturer Hawley & Hazel (established in 1933 but now part-owned by the Colgate-Palmolive company) distributes to six countries in Asia including Thailand, demonstrated by the Thai language text on the packaging. Colgate-Palmolive began changing the oral care product line name to 'Darlie' in 1989 as a result of three years of pressure from shareholders, religious and cultural groups. The signature face image is no longer a black minstrel caricature but a white male face in top hat, bow tie and tuxedo.

Physical Description

The cardboard box is predominantly green black and white with text in English and Thai languages. The box is titled 'Darkie' on all four sides [translated once in Thai]. Also featured is a cartoon-like black and white image of a caricature black minstrel in top hat and black tie and displaying a white teeth smile. The tube has a similar design to the box with the title 'Darkie' Toothpaste and a cartoon-like black and white image of a caricature black minstrel in top hat and black tie and displaying a white teeth smile. On one side of the tube the text is predominantly in English; on the other side it is all in Thai. The plastic screw-lid is black and the white paste contents are clearly visible when unscrewed.

Significance

This item is an evocative example of the use by manufacturers of racial stereotypes to brand and sell their products, even in the recent past. Both the racist term' darkie' and the image of a black and white minstrel has endured through this product packaging, although its renaming and packaging demonstrates a response to consumer complaints.

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