‘Jolly Nigger’ Banks: Obama Edition

The idea of there being a bank designed to resemble a black man may not come as a shocker to Americans. America’s past history is filled with artifacts that were designed to mock, humiliate, and dehumanize various cultures and ethnicities. One artifact customized to humiliate Black men are ‘Jolly Nigger’ banks. Originally, ‘Jolly Nigger’ mechanical banks were an American product but also produced in Britain. Many of these banks mimic world known Black caricature features such as large noses and huge lips. Another addition to these banks is their eyes roll in the back of their heads when money is inserted. Some scholars have said that they resemble monkeys. A larger quantity of these banks began to appear in the US after slavery ended. There are tons of negative memorabilia made to insult Black people and this bank is no different.

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Banks like these were made from the 19th to 20th century. The last time they were made was in the 1950s. Only 65 years ago you could see these penny banks being sold in various stores. Could you image walking past a store’s window and seeing a penny bank designed to resemble a Black man? These banks are similar to Hello Kitty and Bart Simpson banks being sold at Wal-Mart & Target. However, these don’t resemble some cute kitty or rebel cartoon fictional character. They resemble living, breathing, Black men. These banks have become expensive collectibles. The originals have become so expensive that many countries like Taiwan and China are trying to reproduce them. You are more likely to find an original at a yard sale for .2 cents then online. The Jolly Nigger banks remain one of the most famous banks because of how many variations and reproductions it has. Also, this penny bank had one of the largest manufacturing than any other.

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One manufacture of these banks was Shepard Hardware Co. Today, the original penny banks sell no less than $500. But why would anyone want to pay that much for a bank? It can’t be because of the historical meaning because there are many interruptions for these banks. One main interruption is that of ‘coonerie.’ The term coon refers to a lazy Black man. It is one of the many anti-Black caricatures used to insult Black men. A coon is considered a no account nigger. It is subhuman and some even consider them creature like. According to Dr. David Pilgrim, “The coon was portrayed as a lazy, easily frightened, chronically idle, inarticulate, buffoon.” Born during American slavery, the coon caricature was given life by many stereotypes which surrounded Black men. Black men were believed to be lazy, uneducated, thieves, and not hardworking. Many believed Black men couldn’t get jobs and would never amount to anything socially or financially.

If we refer back to these banks, they add insult to the fire for Black men living in America. When the eyes roll back on this bank as a coin is being inserted it looks like a sense of pleasure. It’s like it’s a pleasure to a Black man to have money. Although the production of these banks has ceased. There has been one newest edition to the Nigger Jolly Bank franchise.

obamabanklargeThis image is the newest Nigger Jolly Bank “Jolly Obama Banks.” After the 2008 presidential election consumers were able to purchase a Jolly Obama bank. Similar to the Nigger Jolly Banks, Jolly Obama banks have similar negative Black caricatures and one new edition. On Obama’s banks, there are 2 white sashes which are supposed to represent Islamic attire. This image of Jolly Obama bank is the 2012 edition when Obama was re-elected into office. The 2008 version had red lips instead of purple. Also, after 9/11 Islamic people were depicted as being terrorist. So, not only have people applied negative Black stereotypes, they are also trying to apply negative Islamic stereotypes to the leader of the “free world.” I guess the world can be free but not from its thinking.

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3 thoughts on “‘Jolly Nigger’ Banks: Obama Edition

  1. 19th century history and modern reproduced garbage. There is a big difference. I’ve never heard that they resemble monkeys. Don’t know where you got that. And as for the “coonery”, Lazy, or whatever. They were called jolly because at the time black men in general were always in good spirits. YOU WILL NOT FIND AN ORIGINAL AT A GARAGE SALE FOR 2¢. This at the time was the most expensive bank to purchase. Collectors snatch them up when they are up for sale. Please remember that I said that the reproductions are garbage.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Colleen,

      I am not sure. You may have to ‘google’ it. I don’t think they are still in rotation. Hopefully they are not. But if you’re really interested in it, try google first. I’m pretty sure their are some independent sellers out there.

      Like

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