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White audiences in the 19th Century wouldn't accept real black entertainers on stage unless they performed in blackface makeup. One of the first Blacks to perform in blackface for White audiences was the man who invented tap dancing, . Lane's talent and skill were extraordinary and eventually he became famous enough that he was able to perform in his own skin.
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In the late 1800s one of the most popular of the blackface performances was the adaptation of Uncle Tom's Cabin; an antislavery tale, it met with few objections even from anti-theater religious leaders. A mixture of minstrel show, circus, and spectacle; with trained dogs, ponies, and sometimes even a crocodile, it remained the most popular play in America for over a century.
The American was effectively dead by WW1, yet some old-timers continued to peddle the same blackface stereotypes later in vaudeville, films and television. It's one of the interesting twists of history that in the first half of the twentieth century, the main purveyors of the old-fashioned blackface minstrel tradition were Black performers, who'd began in show business wearing the blackface mask -- either literally or figuratively -- and were reluctant to give it up.
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Hollywood has a long list of actors and actresses who appeared in films whether as blackface characters or with blackface characters. Actors like Bing Crosby, Milton Berle, Al Jolson, Edie Cantor, Fred Astaire, Martha Mears, Shirley Temple, Judy Garland, Ronald Reagan and Bugs Bunny, all gave their support to "Blackening up" in films.
Caricatures in Context, Part 1: The Popularity of the …
The most popular radio show of all time was The Amos 'n' Andy Show. The characters were created by Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll; two white actors with blackface and vaudeville experience. NBC began broadcasting Amos 'n' Andy on radio August 19th, 1929 and it was an instant success. It was the first radio program to be distributed by syndication in the United States. The show ran as a nightly radio serial from 1928 until 1943 and as a weekly situation comedy from 1943 until 1955. Portraying blackface racist stereotypes on radio was a bit of a challenge because there were no visuals. The stereotypical voice characterizations needed to be even more exaggerated to help listeners distinguish between characters.
Jim Crow Museum - Ferris State University
With the popularization of radio and motion pictures in the 1920s, professional minstrel shows lost much of their national following. However, amateur minstrel shows continued in local theaters, community centers, high schools, and churches as late as the 1960s.
controversial humor | Humor in America
In Bamboozled (2000), Spike Lee addresses the legacy of blackface minstrelsy, and raises the question of who is wearing the blackface now. Many of the Black characters in television comedies today are derived from the same racist stereotypes of blacks that have existed since the days of minstrel shows. The FOX Television sitcom, South Central (1994) was, in the words of Brotherhood Crusade President Danny Blackwell, "the Amos 'n' Andy of 1994." The Parent 'Hood (1995-2000), a program aimed at family viewers, relied on working class coon and mammy caricatures for a good portion of its humor.
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Negative stereotypes of Blacks are a staple of Black music videos that glorify gangsterism. The "buck" is now a hoodlum with an attitude and the minstrel-show plantation has morphed into a music video version of gangster life. Though the setting has changed from an idyllic plantation to the mean streets of urban America, the process remains the same; a black culture is being marketed for profit, with black performers portraying negative stereotypes. Performers believe they are representing authentic black America, while critics decry the glorification of ugly caricatures and how it influences the attitudes and perceptions of Black youth.