Jump Jim Crow: The Story Behind Blackface

1 Posted by - February 2, 2018 - LATEST POSTS

In 1828, a white New Yorker and comedian named Thomas Dartmouth “Daddy” Rice perform Jump Jim Crow. Dressed in blackface, the character was inspired by the mocking of a disabled black man Rice had seen dancing in Ohio, named Jim Crow. Rice’s performances of Jump Jim Crow engendered a largely popular movement of blackface. Over the top theatrical performances and music called minstrel shows were created, primarily focused on mocking African Americans. The popularity of blackface entertainment soared, and many black males were collectively called Jim Crow by whites. Jim Crow grew so popular that in 1841, when John Lloyd Stephens, the U.S. ambassador to Central America, arrived to the Yucatan Peninsula, the local band hired to play thought that Jump Jim Crow was the national anthem of the United States, proceeding to play it. Prior to the Civil War, the influence of minstrel shows grew and spread worldwide. In time, Jim Crow usage was applied to racial segregation laws throughout the United States. Between the years of 1876 and 1965, the usage of the laws soared in the southern and border states across the country to mandate the separation of blacks and whites.

In this poem by Langston Hughes, entitled Minstrel Man, Hughes captures the pain behind white mockery of the plight of African Americans with the use of minstrel shows and blackface. Behind the shows which depicted happy-go-lucky and entertaining caricatures of black men and women, there was pain and oppression, political, economical, and social disenfranchisement.

 

Minstrel Man

By: Langston Hughes

 

Because my mouth

Is wide with laughter

And my throat

Is deep with song,

You do not think

I suffer after

I have held my pain

So long?

 

Because my mouth

Is wide with laughter,

You do not hear

My inner cry?

Because my feet

Are gay with dancing,

You do not know

I die?

 

source: http://www.blackpast.org/aah/jim-crow

11 Comments

  • helen February 4, 2018 - 6:18 pm Reply

    Thanks a bunch. I really do enjoy reading all of your posts. I always learn something I didn’t know. Best of all, I get to share it with my grandchildren and friends. Keep up the good work as this is a month of celebrating our heritage.

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  • Wendy Manson-Myers May 11, 2019 - 1:42 am Reply

    Thank you. I was very young when the civil rights movement was going on. Here I am as an adult and the term “black face” came up a few months ago. “Huh? what is that?” Jim Crow, I thought it was a real person who intended to hurt the blacks with his suppressive laws. You gave me all the information to clear all this terrible stuff up. Thank you.

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