Men in Blackface

by Seymour Stark (Author)
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The Minstrel Show Will Never Die
Jim Crow and Tom Thumb
Irishness of it All
Irving Berlin Titillates
Gershwins Racial Profiling
Jews in Blackface
Jolson the Shlemiel
Strutting to Redemption


How New York City, the Birthplace of Blackface, Defined Humor and Race for 100 Years

(MIB: 12-17) Jim Crow, a blackface stage character, lends his name to the pernicious practice of racial segregation. Native New Yorker Tom Rice performed "Jim Crow" at the Bowery Theatre in 1832.

(MIB: 22-24) Edwin P. Christy established the first permanent minstrel hall at 472 Broadway in New York City in 1847. Christy created the stylized format which endured for 10 decades.

Why Irish Americans Wore Blackface

(MIB: 18-19) Dan Emmets "Dixie", written as a minstrel tune, became the Confederate anthem. In an earlier minstrel song, Emmett romanticized slavery: "Ill dance all night an work all day."

(MIB: 46-48) Ned Harrigan, the grandfather of the Broadway musical, pitted on stage the Irish Mulligan Guard in 1879 against the black (white actors in blackface) Skidmore Guard--"Ten platoons of dandy coons."

The Blackface Burden of Jewishness

(MIB: 73-78) Irving Berlin, son of a cantor, penned his first "coon song" in 1909, and added eight more to his "coon song" cycle. Berlin staged blackface minstrel shows for the Army in both World War I and World War II. His 1942 film, "Holiday Inn", introduced "White Christmas" and Bing Crosby in blackface.

(MIB: 101-138) Al Jolson in blackface made the first talking motion picture in 1927. In each of his eight Hollywood films over two decades, Jolson weaved the theme of Jewishness into the blackface minstrel show. He is the worldwide icon of blackface.

Publication date
November 07, 2001
Page count
Paper ISBN
File size
2 MB