Fellows Find: Photos, playbills, news clippings document history of blackface in minstrel shows

Among the Ransom Center’s many treasures in its performing arts collections are the 4,000 items related to the minstrel show. Culled from private collections, these preserved photographs, programs, sheet-music arrangements, and first-person accounts reveal the world of the blackface minstrel from the Jacksonian age to the 1950s. These are not pleasant items to look at, but they represent an origin point for much of our present-day popular culture and our desire to imitate, borrow, or steal across class and racial lines in the name of entertainment. …

For full article see: http://www.utexas.edu/opa/blogs/culturalcompass/2011/07/13/fellows-find-photos-playbills-news-clippings-document-history-of-blackface-in-minstrel-shows/

One Comment

  1. Gary Parks

    Admittedly, I’m coming from the perspective of a White person, but I think it’s important that these artifacts be preserved. I believe the attitude should be “Lest We Forget.” This past, while in many ways difficult to look at now (and I can’t even imagine its impact on African-Americans), needs to be accessible, so that people can see what progress has been made in race relations, and how much more needs to be made.

    I will never forget being in a Los Angeles antique store (it was prior to attending the 1998 THS Conclave), and coming across a case which held many items from the early 20th century that lampooned Blacks in various ways–blackface figurines, “Mammy” cookie jars and tea cozies, the ubiquitous jockeys, etc. A young Black couple stopped by the case while I was nearby, and the man said to the woman, “If I could afford it, I’d buy all this stuff and burn it.” By all appearances (dress, speech, etc.) these were well-educated, affluent African-Americans. I of course remained silent, but in my thoughts, I disagreed. If that “stuff” is destroyed, it will be more possible for deniers of past cruelties to spread misinformation, and harder for people to get a clearer idea of history–both its pain and progress–in the future.

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