It has been argued that "[t]he image of the minstrel clown has been the most persistent and influential image of blacks in American history" (Engle, 1978, p. Words from the folk song "Jim Crow," published by E.Riley in 1830, further demonstrate the transmission of this stereotype of African-Americans to society: "I'm a full blooded niggar, ob de real ole stock, and wid my head and shoulder I can split a horse block.
Acts of racial violence were justified and encouraged through the emphasis on this stereotype of the Savage.
The urgent message to whites was, we must put blacks in their place or else (Boskin, 1986).
In fact, "a stereotype may be so consistently and authoritatively transmitted in each generation from parent to child that it seems almost a biological fact" (Boskin, 1986, p. The stereotyping of African-Americans was brought to the theatrical stage with the advent of the blackface minstrel (Engle, 1978). His inspiration for the famous minstrel dance-and-comedy routine was an old, crippled, black man dressed in rags, whom he saw dancing in the street (Engle, 1978).
Beginning in the early 19th century, white performers darkened their faces with burnt cork, painted grotesquely exaggerated white mouths over their own, donned woolly black wigs and took the stage to entertain society. This "city dandy" was the northern counterpart to the southern "plantation darky," the Sambo (Engle, 1978 p. During that time, a law prohibited African-Americans from dancing because it was said to be "crossing your feet against the lord" (Hoffmann, 1986, video).
White women, men and children across the country embraced the image of the fat, wide-eyed, grinning black man.
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It was perpetuated over and over, shaping enduring attitudes toward African-Americans for centuries. Rice is the acknowledged "originator" of the American blackface minstrelsy.The response was also wildly enthusiastic as 26 million Americans went to the movies to see Al Jolson in the "Jazz Singer" (Boskin 1986).Movies were, and still are, a powerful medium for the transmission of stereotypes.This pervasive image of a simple-minded, docile black man dates back at least as far as the colonization of America.The Sambo stereotype flourished during the reign of slavery in the United States.The "foppish" black caricature, Jim Crow, became the image of the black man in the mind of the white western world (Engle, 1978).This image was even more powerful in the north and west because many people never had come into contact with African-American individuals.Additionally, strategies for intervention and the implications of this exploration into racial stereotypes will be presented.The racial stereotypes of early American history had a significant role in shaping attitudes toward African-Americans during that time.As an accommodation to this law, African-Americans developed a shuffling dance in which their feet never left the ground.The physically impaired man Rice saw dancing in this way became the prototype for early minstrelsy (Engle 1978).