Commercials: Crossing the Color Line

A few months ago, Negro Actress Zaida Coles auditioned for a TV commercial and landed a job pitching a new Bristol-Myers cleanser. Or so she thought. After further reflection, the advertising agency turned her down—not because she was black, but because she was not black enough.

Like many commercial makers nowadays, the agency wanted a darker-skinned Negro so that there would be no mistaking the integrated nature of its advertisements. Threatened with boycotts and scolded by civil rights groups, sponsors have responded by doubling the number of integrated commercials in the past...