Nat King Cole Window Card 1950s with Segregated Audience

An original, old Nat King Cole window card used to advertise tickets for Cole’s appearance in Chattanooga, Tennessee on September 15, 1954.

This concert poster has a startling “segregation line” which informs customers that white spectators will be charged less money than blacks, and probably gave them their own section to sit in.

Chattanooga is in the deep south, where concert posters in the 1950s and early ’60s frequently had racial segregation rules for the audience. So many concert placards of the era reflected that fact.

Not surprisingly, this is the only Nat King Cole tour poster I’ve seen that has what we call a ‘seg line.’  It’s rather disturbing the first time you see it.

There are, however, Nat King Cole placards from throughout his long and illustrious touring career right up until his untimely death from lung cancer in the mid-sixties.

This Nat King Cole boxing-style poster also features Buddy Johnson with his sister Ella down at the bottom. The brother-sister Johnson duo were a ubiquitous presence on the concert trail during this era.

Both acts on this poster were African-American, of course, so this 1950s segregated show poster made an attempt to encourage Caucasians to feel safe in attending.

One could easily speculate that the word “spectators” was used because whites were not allowed to mingle or dance with blacks, they were only allowed to sit and observe this post-war black-music touring show, which must’ve been a bit frustrating.

It’s unfortunate that music concert billboards from the South had to have such proclamations during this era, but such discrimination surely helped fuel the fire of the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s and produce change, slowly but surely.

Such black-music concert window displays with segregated ticket information are not as few & far between as you might think. I’ve probably seen 25-50 different posters with ‘seg lines’ since I began collecting vintage concert-poster art over 20 years ago.

The entire text found on this Nat King Cole broadside, just as it reads from top to bottom:

(In blue ink up in the venue information box): Concert & Dance – Memorial Auditorium, Chattanooga – Wed. Sept. 15, 8:30 P.M. – Admission: Advance $1.50 – At Door $2.00 – White Spectators $1.00

(And now in the colorful portion below): In Person – Nat ‘King’ Cole Plus the Great Buddy Johnson and his Orchestra – with Ella Johnson & Nolan Lewis

(And then in the white margin at very bottom): General Artists Corporation, RKO Building., New York – Cincinnati – Chicago – Hollywood – London • (printer’s union bug, then in very tiny print): C.J. Warner Poster Corp., 653 Eleventh Ave. N.Y.C.

It’s very feather-ruffling how a simple 14 by 22-inch cardboard show placard from over 50 years ago could bring back such unsettling feelings when one reflects on the segregation era in U.S. history.

This Nat King Cole tour placard is discussed historically and aesthetically by long-time ticket-poster collector Pete Howard (pete@postercentral.com or phone at 805-540-0020). I will pay the very best prices for any vintage black-Americana concert posters such as this one.

If you’d like to see some other black-music ticket posters dating back to the fifties and sixties, just point your mouse to this page on my Web site: http://www.postercentral.com/rhythmnblues.htm

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