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

Nicholas Sammond, Author
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An example of "black vaudeville" on film, the Vitaphone short Pie, Pie Blackbird (1932) teamed jazz singer Nina Mae McKinney with composer/bandleader Eubie Blake and child tap dancing wizards the Nicholas Brothers. This routine has McKinney playing Mammy to the brothers, singing to them about "Massah" while Blake and his band, dressed as chefs, emerge from a giant pie.

Major African American stars of the early sound era who crossed from vaudeville, Broadway, and the club circuit onto the screen were often forced to play minstreleque roles in order to gain exposure, as segregation extended to film production, distribution and exhibition. 

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