What’s in a label? Apparently a lot according to an African American teenager who got served a Negro candy as a gesture of good will by an unsuspecting immigrant man.
Negro is a hard licorice candy. I hated them as a kid. They taste like turpentine and feel like chewing glass beads that just won’t go away.
Go away they won’t. They’ve been making them for eighty five years in Serbia. The wrapper design has been updated a bit since I’ve been a kid but it still has that old world sensibility. Chimneys and candy don’t mix.
The tagline under the big red “NEGRO” reads “THROAT CHIMNEY SWEEPER.” Delicious. The lower left seal claims “THE ONE AND ONLY GENUINE.” There is a less-than-genuine Hungarian knockoff also called Negro. See the picture of a man holding a bag of copycat Negroes at the bottom.
The clipping above is from one of my favorite news stories ever. It was reported in a local paper around 2003. The pictured girl was trick-or-treating and a Yugoslav refugee gave her some Negro candy. The girl saw this as a racial insult and went away crying.
I can’t say that I know more about the incident than was reported. It’s hard to believe that the non-English speaking immigrant was intentionally racist. The man was simply trying to conform to the odd American custom of trick-or-treating the best way he could. He probably thought that the local kids would enjoy some imported (yet foul) tasting candy.
I visited the manufacturers website. It’s very slick but it’s weird. It uses industrial language like “hard molded candy” and “product specifications” which comes at no surprise since they have a chimney on the wrapper.
I’d guess the incident with the teenager was a case of cultural misunderstanding. You’d go nuts if you started taking brand names apart.
Baba appropriated the picture below from Jani Helle. The original photo along many other cool shots can be found at Jani’s Flickr page.