Significance of Minstrel Shows Minstrel shows were one of the most integral parts of entertainment in the United States during the nineteenth century and early twentieth century. Audiences at that time liked blackface comedy due to segregation, and racial discrimination in the society. Due to wide varieties of caricatures, dances, and songs, minstrel shows gained popularity within a short span of time. In minstrel shows, white people masked themselves as black people, and portrayed exaggerated black stereotypes, which dehumanized black population. The racist comedy gags and dances performed by artists in minstrel shows were hilarious for white audiences back then.
However, a pattern became evident, a pattern of type casting African Americans in roles which did not accurately and wholly portray the individual. A misrepresentation of African Americans became the common image on television. Variety shows initially promoted the new media as an opportunity for equal representation and communication between the races. However, a trend developed with African Americans often being “portrayed as custodians, maids, servants, clowns, or buffoons” (Crenshaw). The negative image, which was developed by these stereotypes, was perpetuated in the Amos and Andy Show.
The roles that the two black men played are the typical roles that blacks play in television networks. The shows portraying blacks as having low self-esteem became very popular among whites and some blacks. The Amos ‘n Andy Show was taken off air after being protested by blacks including the NAACP (Poussaint 1). The Amos ‘n Andy Show Godfrey 2 had a profound effect on blacks. From that point on, blacks believed that in order to be successful in the television network they had to portray themselves as being idiotic and lazy.
Minstrelsy, or minstrel shows, were a widely popular form of entertainment during the eighteenth century that consisted of comedic acts of white people negatively impersonating the African American population as lazy, unintelligent, and superstitious with offensive theatrical makeup called blackface. While minstrel shows encouraged the promotion of music and what Americans may have considered to be the high points of black culture in some shows, they also showed extreme discrimination and racial inequality. With the rise of minstrelsy also came the growing influence that these negative caricatures had on society and culture, even literature. One literary work creates a large amount of controversy even today because of its seemingly racial and discriminatory plot; The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain is controversial only because of Twain's accurate depiction of the social issues of the time, especially race. Mark Twain himself loved minstrel shows, and because he accurately portrays his characters as products of their time, including Jim, the different caricatures of the stereotypical black slave are evident in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, where Jim rejects the stereotypical blackface portrayal of minstrelsy.
The viscous cycle that is the unconscious racism of the media continues to not only be detrimental to the white consumers, who base what they know about blacks by what is represented in television, but also the black consumers, who grow up with a false sense of identity. In The Marrow of Tradition, author Charles W. Chesnutt illustrates examples that signify the thoughts that whites had of and used against blacks, which are still very much prevalent in public opinion and contemporary media. Chesnutt writes, “Confine the negro to that inferior condition for which nature had evidently designed for him (Chesnutt, 533).” Although significant strides have been made toward equality, the media, in many instances, continues to project blacks as inferior to whites through examples observed in television shows, music videos, films and newscasts. According to Poverty & Prejudice: Media and Race, co-authored by Yurii Horton, Raagen Price, and Eric Brown, the media sets the tone for the morals, values and images of our culture. Many whites in American society, some of whom have never encoun... ... middle of paper ... ... model for how the entertainment and media industries depict black people must change.
It is the determination of these leaders, groups, and Theaters that helped increase the participation and created the success that African-Americans received throughout history in American Theatre. Enslaved Africans have always brought music, dancing, and singing to the plantation life. It has always been apart of African-American culture to resemble theatre with traditions. Theatre traditions are a great way to be able to express yourself and given the history of African-Americans they always loved the rituals of music, dancing, and singing. It was a great way to be able to keep their mind off dealing with slavery and the lack of rights they were given within America at that time.
Media is a focal reason for the evolution and formation of masculinity, especially black masculinity. Men are at the forefront of media, and the men that are portrayed in media are almost perfect in every fashion. The media has stereotyped black men, which ultimately leads to the evolution of the black man. The evolution of the black man is formed through a stereotype because, it affects the expectations of what black men are supposed and not supposed to do. Starting in the early 1950s the image of black men started to change.
Marcus Garvey was said to be one of the most influential African American at this time. He was known for the work he did as an civil rights activist. The 1920’s had a major impact on all African Americans, helping them thrive, and showed what they had accomplished in American society. The Harlem Renaissance period occurred during the 1920’s and the early 1930’s (). African American during this time excelled in the arts, which included music, literature, and visual arts, such as paintings.
By examining the changes that minstrelsy underwent during the nineteenth century, the function that the racist stereotypes performed will become evident. Blackface minstrelsy was an established nineteenth century form of onstage entertainment most popular in the northern states of America which intentionally created exaggerated stereotypes of black people for prominently white working class male audiences . White performers would blacken their faces with burnt cork or black grease and perform skits, songs and dances and act out their image of black people. Rather than present an accurate depiction of African Americans and authentic portrayals of the qualities of ‘negro’ life, minstrelsy reflected the ideas and conceptions of white society . The content of the shows however was altered to create images of blacks and slaves that suited white northern public opinion .
Ethic Notions In his documentary Ethnic Notions producer Marlon Riggs examines the extent that African Americans have been characterized in white American society since slavery and how that has come to shape our culture today. He examines various Jim Crow imagery in a number of different decades attempting to show how African Americans have been portrayed to fit the needs of White America during their particular time. One such example is the emergence of minstrel shows and the black face performances occurring within them used for the purpose of not only entertainment but also to perpetuated to the idea of white supremacy. The use of black face was one of the most detrimental blows to the black community because it took away their ability to self-express. The white actors depicting blacks gave had no intention of accurately representing them, instead they sought to convince all of America that they were inferior through the use of entertainment.