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

Nicholas Sammond, Author
Space, page 17 of 36


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Space, Page 170

An ad for Philco radios features Charley Mack of the blackface duo Moran and Mack hawking their stage show, radio program, and feature film. Minstrelsy was an intermedial phenomenon, linked as much to voice (especially in radio) as to appearance and its performance across media reinforced the pervasiveness of Jim Crow as a social formation acceptable to whites and imposed on nonwhites.

In another example of minstrelsy as a public performance of Jim Crow, Al Jolson's promotional tour for his 1930 film Mammy,  deployed parades of minstrels to advertise the film. In this scene from Mammy, Jolson performs the song "Who Paid the Rent for Mrs. Rip Van Winkle?" in front of a minstrel troupe, with all performers in blackface, except for the interlocutor. The interlocutor sits directly behind Jolson as he performs and the unchanging framing of the shot throughout the song presents him as a shadow of Jolson's minstrel, performing the interlocutor's control the minstrel and further heightening the visualization of this contemporary racial formation. 
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