Here Come The Minstrels

Blackface performers The Virginia Minstrels - replete with white clown mouths, oversized tailcoats, and bookended by tambourine and bones players - first appeared on 6th February, 1843, at the New York Bowery Amphitheatre. They were an instant hit, but it wasn’t the first time a blackface act had been making (white) crowds laugh.

American minstrelsy originated some 12 years earlier, when white performer Thomas ‘Daddy’ Rice first appeared as ‘Jim Crow’ - a comic parody of an elderly, disabled, enslaved African-American. His act proved so wildly popular the Boston Post reported that only Queen Victoria was a more crowd-pleasing character.

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly reveal why it wasn’t only white performers who performed in blackface; examine how Hollywood kept this racist tradition alive long after it had fallen from favour in theatres; and discover that, over the decades, blackface became such an established and celebrated entertainment that it was performed at The White House…

CONTENT WARNING: historical racist language, discussion of racially offensive tropes

Further Reading:

• ‘Blackface: The Birth of An American Stereotype’ (National Museum of African American History and Culture):

• ‘Burnt Cork: Traditions and Legacies of Blackface Minstrelsy - Ed. Stephen Burge Johnson’ (University of Massachusetts Press, 2012):

• ‘Blackface: A cultural history of a racist art form’ (CBS Sunday Morning, 2018):

#Racism #Theatre 

Love the show? Join 🌴CLUB RETROSPECTORS 🌴 to DITCH THE ADS and get an additional full-length episode every SUNDAY!

Plus, get weekly bonus bits, unlock over 70 bits of extra content and support our independent podcast.

Join now via Apple Podcasts or PatreonThanks!

We'll be back tomorrow! Follow us wherever you get your podcasts:

The Retrospectors are Olly Mann, Rebecca Messina & Arion McNicoll, with Matt Hill.

Theme Music: Pass The Peas. Announcer: Bob Ravelli. Graphic Design: Terry Saunders. Edit Producer: Sophie King.

Copyright: Rethink Audio / Olly Mann 2023.

Hosted on Acast. See for more information.