essay

Topics: African American, Blackface, Black people Pages: 8 (1951 words) Published: April 28, 2014
Although sitcoms with primarily black characters had been present since the earliest days of network television, the genre rose to prominence in the 1990’s. Black Characters that occurred on TV originally were casted as a form of “Blackface”; Blackface is a usage of melodramatic makeup used by performers to represent a black person. It is often reflected offensive, because it can imply stereotyped falsification of black people as in minstrel shows, and later cabaret. The practice gained popularity during the 19th century and contributed to the proliferation of stereotypes such as the "happy-go-lucky darky on the plantation" or the "dandified coon". In 1848, blackface minstrel shows were an American national art of the time, translating formal art such as opera into popular terms for a general audience. Early in the 20th century, blackface branched off from the minstrel show and became a form in its own right, until it ended in the United States with the U.S. Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. In this ambivalent atmosphere, early television often spotlighted black talent. On local and network levels, African-American entertainers performed frequently as regulars or guest stars on variety series, as hosts or central characters on black-oriented programs, and as performers on one-shot dramatic and musical productions. African-American personalities appeared on several of the most popular comedy-variety programs of the late 1940s and early 1950s. Ethel Waters, Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, Mar­tha Davis and Spouse, and Nat King Cole were guests many times on Your Show of Shows, The Garry Moore Show, The Colgate Comedy Hour, All Star Revue, and The Jackie Gleason Show. Sports personalities such as Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, and the Harlem Globetrotters made special appearances. Typical was the appearance in 1953 of vocalist Sarah Vaughan on the “DuMont series Stars on Parade”. Here she added glamour and sultry jazz arrangements to this program which featured talent drawn from the U.S. military. 2

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Media also plays an important role on how “White America” plays a negative influence on African-Americans. “One of the most important things any group of people can do is to control the image of themselves,” said School of Social Work Dean Larry Davis in a discussion about the damaging psychological effects that negative media images have on African-American males. His talk was part of a daylong conference at the University Club that examined the impact of news media depictions of African-American males. The Nov. 1 event, “Evolving the Image of the African American Male in American Media,” was hosted by Pitt’s Office of Public Affairs and supported by a grant from the Heinz Endowments. “Overwhelmingly, white Americans learn about African Americans not through personal relationships, but through images shown by media. Unfortunately, blacks too consume these same images,” Davis said. “Black males are facing increasing difficulties obtaining positive life outcomes and avoiding negative ones,” Davis said in estimating the importance of the conference. “We must change the way black males are perceived and perceive themselves. The misconceptions upon African-American actors and or actresses shape common stereotypes of media portrayal. The Club TCM lounge at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel hosted Film Historian Donald Bogle, who presented a lively, entertaining and rather revealing presentation which examined the different stereotypes of African-Americans actors, highlighting historical aspects of the talented black performers that transcended or transformed their roles to suit to put out a particular image or message, relevant to the history and economy of America's changing environment at that time. 3

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It was clear that Hollywood always and still has a direct influence on cinema around the world through the eyes of the movies, whether it be via truth, myths or misconceptions, and sometimes these would be interpreted as a...
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