History of blackface: reason to read – quote from Frederick Douglass …
In 1848, after watching a blackface act, abolitionist Fredrick Douglass called the performers “the filthy scum of white society” in The North Star newspaper.
Blackface performers, he said, “have stolen from us a complexion denied to them by nature … to make money and pander to the corrupt taste of their white fellow-citizens.”
did black people have to wear black face? – the inventory of tap did his was know as Master Juba’s real name was William Henry Lane. He was born a free black man in Rhode Island in 1825, and began his career as a performer in minstrel shows.
Minstrel shows began in the US in the 1830s, when working class white men (usually Irish) blackened their faces with burnt cork and dressed up as plantation slaves while imitating black music and dance and speaking in a “plantation” dialect. The shows featured a variety of jokes, songs, dances and skits that were based on the ugliest stereotypes of African American slaves. From 1840 to 1890, minstrel shows were the most popular form of entertainment in America and they only died out completely in the 1950s with the advance of civil rights.
Only white actors were allowed to perform in minstrel shows until 1838, when Lane began performing minstrel acts, but even he was required to wear blackface makeup. It seems absurd now to think of a black man being forced to wear makeup so he can look like a white man made up to look black, but that was the only way he was allowed to perform. In the early years of minstrel shows, white audiences simply would not tolerate an actual black man on stage, but Juba’s enormous talent made him so popular that he was soon able to perform in his own skin.
- info from http://masterjuba.com/