100 Years Ago Today

A History Of Events And Happenings From Exactly One Hundred Years Ago

Postmarked January 29, 1915

Thomas Dartmouth “Daddy” Rice was an actor in New York in the 1820’s. He observed an African-American singing a song about “Jim Crow”. In 1828 Rice appeared on stage as “Jim Crow” – an exaggerated, highly stereotypical black character. Rice, a white man, was one of the first performers to wear blackface makeup. His new act was met with great success and he traveled the world. By 1848, blackface minstrel shows were the national artform, translating formal art such as opera into popular terms for a general audience. “Jim Crow” was a stock character in minstrel shows, along with counterparts Jim Dandy and Zip Coon. Rice’s subsequent blackface characters were Sambos, Coons, and Dandies. White audiences were receptive to the portrayals of blacks as singing, dancing, grinning fools.

The denigration of African-Americans in American culture continued through racists laws called “Jim Crow” laws. Degrading and demeaning portrayals in theater, art and advertising are ever present as typified by the Cream Of Wheat cereal logo. Many modern day singers such as Sophie Tucker and Al Jolson appear on stage in blackface and sing ragtime, jazz and other African-American musical styles that would not be sung by white performers. While this is an era where many racial stereotypes are seen and heard such as Irish, Jewish, Swede, German, Asian and even Dumb Hick, African-American are far more persuasive and numerous.

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On January 29, 1915 this postcard was sent.

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