Sign in or register
for additional privileges

Birth of An Industry: Blackface Minstrelsy and the Rise of American Animation

Nicholas Sammond, Author

You appear to be using an older verion of Internet Explorer. For the best experience please upgrade your IE version or switch to a another web browser.

Introduction, Page 4

The classic minstrel show may be gone, but blackface is a living international tradition. In his 2000 film Bamboozled,  Spike Lee commented on this durability and its effect on African American performance. Here, Savion Glover and Tommy Davidson apply burnt cork to their faces. (African American performers in the 19th and 20th centuries often had to black up to play "themselves" in front of white audiences.)

Another clip from Bamboozled features Glover's and Davidson's characters Mantan (named after the actor Mantan Moreland) and Sleep 'n' Eat (named after the stereotypical propensities of the minstrel) performing indefinite speech, a fantasy of telepathic communication between African Americans, and of a secret "code" opaque to whites. 

Controversial 21st century South African rap group die Antwoord also repeatedly plays with blackface in its music videos.  Fatty Boom Boom deploys full-body blackface and whiteface, with singer Yolandi sometimes appearing as a living "gollywog" doll. Another die Antwoord video, Ugly Boy, features a man in blackface, and an Afro wig wearing a sweat shirt emblazoned with the words "Hi My Name is God."

Yet another international example of contemporary blackface is Australian comedian Chris Lilley's rapper character s.Mouse, from his Angry Boys series (2011). Here, viewers are first introduced to s.Mouse, through a satire on hip-pop culture with the absurdly titled single "Slap My Elbow". Another s.Mouse video, the Animal Zoo, features women dressed up in animal costumes in a Safari themed landscape that makes a parallel between women and non-human animals.

Other examples of contemporary blackface include a tragicomic scene in the prime-time cable show Madmen (2009), in which Roger Sterling blacks up to sing "My Old Kentucky Home" at his daughter's wedding, or  Billy Crystal reprising his blackface impersonation of Sammy Davis Jr. (from his television special, Don't Get Me Started) for
the 2012 Academy Awards.

And so on. Blackface as a performance practice is still very much a part of mainstream popular culture.

Comment on this page

Discussion of "Introduction, Page 4"

Add your voice to this discussion.

Checking your signed in status ...

Previous page on path Introduction, page 3 of 17 Next page on path

Related:  Race, Page 247Performance, Page 60Race, Page 254Performance, Page 41Race, Page 224Race, Page 232Introduction, Page 1Conclusion, Page 289Labor, Page 128Race, Page 213Race, Page 252Conclusion, Page 303Race, Page 221Performance, Page 50Space, Page 172Race, Page 248Race, Page 220Conclusion, Page 302Conclusion, Page 278Labor, Page 133Introduction, Page 15Race, Page 253Space, Page 141Space, Page 150Performance, Page 46Performance, Page 45Conclusion, Page 298Race, Page 239Race, Page 235Conclusion, Page 296Introduction, Page 29Introduction, Page 6Race, Page 206Space, Page 170Introduction, Page 23Race, Page 258Race, Page 261Performance, Page 47Space, Page 190Introduction, Page 16Labor, Page 112Conclusion, Page 291Labor, Page 98Space, Page 165Race, Page 225Conclusion, Page 271Performance, Page 54Space, Page 197Space, Page 163Space, Page 143Conclusion, Page 284Conclusion, Page 273Performance, Page 77Performance, Page 82Race, Page 251Space, Page 177Space, Page 162Space, Page 175Space, Page 148Conclusion, Page 275Space, Page 183Space, Page 194Conclusion, Page 300Space, Page 181Introduction, Page 14Space, Page 193Labor, Page 122Labor, Page 110Space, Page 188Conclusion, Page 286Space, Page 178Space, Page 191Performance, Page 35Performance, Page 74Introduction, Page 2Labor, Page 113Space, Page 182Performance, Page 34Space, Page 146Introduction, Page 21Race, Page 231Race, Page 219Performance, Page 43Race, Page 229Labor, Page 109Space, Page 187Introduction, Page 30Labor, Page 88Conclusion, Page 290Performance, Page 52Space, Page 138Performance, Page 44Performance, Page 42Conclusion, Page 304Conclusion, Page 292Performance, Page 84Labor, Page 123Space, Page 155Performance, Page 72Race, Page 230Space, Page 189Labor, Page 132Race, Page 204