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The Walter White Project

Randy Stakeman, Jackson Stakeman, Authors

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Media images of African Americans derive from minstrel shows

Images of African Americans first became part of the national culture through the minstrel shows of the 19th century. These images were drawn from white observation of black life and fit the needs of whites rather than the realities of blacks. They were drawn from the antebellum period when slavery defined what whites wanted to believe of blacks. The first popular character was that of a poor, raggedy but happy Negro called Jim Crow.  Jim Crow was the creation of a white person and impersonated on stage by white "Ethiopian delineators" as the white actors who portrayed him called themselves.Jim Crow was only the first of several characters the "minstrels" and "Ethiopian delineators" developed for their shows. There was also the "Mammy" the Pickaninny, the Sambo and Zip Coon. These characters served to justify slavery and to vilify free Negroes.

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