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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).In 1830, when "Daddy" Rice performed this same dance, "..effect was electric..." (Bean et al., 1996, p. White actors throughout the north began performing "the Jim Crow" to enormous crowds, as noted by a New York newspaper.
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).
by Laura Green Virginia Commonwealth University As human beings, we naturally evaluate everything we come in contact with.
We especially try to gain insight and direction from our evaluations of other people.
White women, men and children across the country embraced the image of the fat, wide-eyed, grinning black man.
It was perpetuated over and over, shaping enduring attitudes toward African-Americans for centuries. Rice is the acknowledged "originator" of the American blackface minstrelsy.In fact, the notion of the "happy slave" is the core of the Sambo caricature.White slave owners molded African-American males, as a whole, into this image of a jolly, overgrown child who was happy to serve his master.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.Stereotypes are "cognitive structures that contain the perceiver's knowledge, beliefs, and expectations about human groups" (Peffley et al., 1997, p. These cognitive constructs are often created out of a kernel of truth and then distorted beyond reality (Hoffmann, 1986).Racial stereotypes are constructed beliefs that all members of the same race share given characteristics.Weel about and turn about and do jis so, eb'ry time I wheel about I jump Jim Crow" (Bean et al., 1997, p. The method of representing African-Americans as "shuffling and drawling, cracking and dancing, wisecracking and high stepping" buffoons evolved over time (Engle, 1978, p. Self-effacing African-American actors began to play these parts both on the stage and in movies.Bert Williams was a popular African-American artist who performed this stereotype for white society.Images of the Sambo, Jim Crow, the Savage, Mammy, Aunt Jemimah, Sapphire, and Jezebelle may not be as powerful today, yet they are still alive.One of the most enduring stereotypes in American history is that of the Sambo (Boskin, 1986).