IPR has partnered with the Museum of Public Relations to feature some of the many Black PR Pioneers in celebration of Black History Month.
In 1957, Inez Y. Kaiser (1918-2016) was the first African American woman to open her own public relations firm and serve national clients. She has also recently become the first Black woman to have her story published in a PR History textbook.
Kaiser was born and raised in Kansas City, Kansas, in 1918 during the Jim Crow era. She majored in home economics and eventually went on to teach the subject for many years.
Kaiser had a passion for writing and translated this to a newspaper column called “Fashion and Otherwise,” which eventually made it to print in Black newspapers across the country. She practiced journalism as a hobby and didn’t realize some of what she was doing was considered PR. Tired of teaching, she resigned to practice public relations full time, following encouragement from her friend Howard Wood, editor and publisher of a Black newspaper, the St. Louis Argos.
After struggling to lease an office for Inez Kaiser & Associates because of racist building owners, Kaiser opened her firm in downtown Kansas City, Missouri. Her first account was the Jenkins Music Company, but it wasn’t long before the likes of 7UP (J. Walter Thompson), Sterling Drug, Burger King Corporation, Southwestern Bell Telephone Company, and Sears Roebuck & Company joined to be clients as well.
Kaiser opened her agency at a time when businesses were becoming more interested in the Black consumer. She was an expert at reaching the Black market, which made the benefits of her counsel evident.
In addition to her work in public relations, Inez Kaiser also played an active role in multiple organizations, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). She used her expertise as a communicator to help spread vital, effective messages during the civil rights movement.
What Inez Kaiser was most famous for is a surprise to many. Sticking true to her home economics background and love for writing, Kaiser combined both worlds to create “Soul Food Cookery,” a Soul Food cookbook that made her name, and the name of Southern-style home cooking famous.
Kaiser was awarded an honorary Doctor of Law degree from Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Missouri, for her public relations achievements and her impact on home economics in Missouri public schools.
Listen to an oral history of Inez Kaiser recorded by the Museum of Public Relations here: www.prmuseum.org/video-and-audio
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