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

Nicholas Sammond, Author

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Minstrels and Vaudevillians in Radio

While vaudeville stars such as Buster Keaton and Eddie Cantor successfully moved from the stage to the screen, other vaudeville acts found success in broadcasting. Many of the biggest radio stars of early radio had been vaudeville personalities long before before they took to the airwaves.

The radio show Amos ‘n’ Andy (1928-1948) is a good example of this intermediality. Remembered primarily as radio personalities, Freeman Gosden and Charles Corell (the original stars of Amos ‘n’ Andy) actually began their radio broadcasting career in an attempt to boost their popularity in vaudeville. Their early broadcasting experiments solidified into the Amos ‘n’ Andy show in 1928 and that program enjoyed widespread popularity until 1943. The white Gosden and Corell used popular minstrel tropes to shape the characters of Amos and Andy, such as malapropisms, southern vernacular, and indefinite speech. Because they were on radio, Gosden and Corell didn’t need to “black-up” before each performance. Still, they participated in a set ofs racist discourses that traveled from the minstrel acts of the mid to late-nineteenth century, through vaudeville, and into animation, film, radio and television (Amos 'n' Andy appeared on CBS from 1951-1953), well into the twentieth century.
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