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