Saturday, February 22, 2014

The history of Jim Crow

After seeing what seemed like a resurgence of blackface in this country and around the world, I decided to so a little research.  I'm not sure how many people actually understand the history of Jim Crow.

Part One

Years before the name became synonymous with racial segregation laws, Jim Crow was a showbiz act — a performance first made famous in New York City by a young white actor named Thomas D. Rice.

Some time around 1830, Rice learned a popular African-American song-and-dance routine, based on the myth of the trickster figure, an escaped slave named Jim Crow. His face blacked out with burnt cork, Rice perfected the act and sparked the tradition of the minstrel act.

The audience for these shows was largely working-class whites, and at first the blackface character was actually a smart and sympathetic one. But as time went on, the minstrel show took on a more racist tone.


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