In comments from our earlier thread, Tanner Colby sends this along. Colby is working on a history of racial integration humorously titled, Some of My Best Friends Are Black. Here are his thoughts on race and Mad Men:
As someone writing a book on the subject currently, I can say that the show's representation is dead on. The first black man to work on Madison avenue was Clarence Holte at BBDO in the early fifties, but he was hired only to work on 'the negro markets' (i.e., funneling mainstream advertising into black newspapers, etc.) The first black man hired to work on general-market advertising (i.e., 'white' advertising) was Roy Eaton who started at Young & Rubicam in 1955. For a looooong time, he was the only one, the Jackie Robinson, so to speak.
The NAACP and CORE made some faltering attempts to get black hires on Madison Avenue in April of 1963 in the wake of the Birmingham marches, but it went nowhere. It wasn't until 1968, in the wake of the riots over MLK's assassination and the threat of a lawsuit from the New York City Commission on Human Rights that the industry finally even acknowledged that the Civil-Rights movement had come to its doorstep.