4 Quick Facts about Actors and Blackface

By Webmaster

  • 4 Quick Facts about Actors and Blackface

    With all the recent uproar over the subject, it’s a good time to revisit some basic facts about actors and the use of blackface.

    (by James Webb)
    ________________________________________________________________________________________________

    There has been much discussion about the use of blackface lately, thanks to talk show hostess, Megyn Kelly and the fashion brand, Prada. Megyn Kelly lost her show, Megyn Kelly Today, on NBC, after she made controversial remarks about the use of blackface in Halloween costumes. Kelly sought to justify its use, saying, “when I was a kid, that was okay as long as you were dressing up as like a character”. Kelly later apologized for her comments, but still lost her show.

    The fashion brand, Prada, has also landed in hot water on the subject of blackface, after it produced and sold keychains that featured a black character with dark skin and full, red lips.

    Prada said that the keychains were “fantasy charms” and weren’t intended to be racist. They have since removed the item from their stores and sought to clarify its intent.

    The latest flare-up involves Ralph Northam, governor of the commonwealth of Virginia. An image found in his 1984 yearbook is alleged to be Northam posing in blackface along with another person wearing a Ku Klux Klan costume. The revelation has lead to calls for the governor to step down.

    With all the recent uproar over the subject, it’s a good time to revisit some basic facts about actors and the use of blackface.

    #1: What is “Blackface”?

    Blackface was the makeup that white actors used in performances to caricature black people. White performers would use burnt cork or even shoe polish to blacken their skin. To further caricature African-Americans, they would exaggerate the size of their lips and wear wooly wigs and ragged clothes.

    This practice gained popularity in the mid-1800’s minstrel shows and existed mainly for the entertainment of white audiences. The use of blackface perpetuated racial stereotypes of African-Americans and minimized the harsh realities of slavery.

     

    #2: Blackface perpetuated racial stereotypes

    The use of blackface perpetuated racial stereotypes of African Americans as buffoons, ignorant, lazy, untrustworthy and as criminals. Its use had a dehumanizing effect, as white audiences, many of whom had little contact with African Americans, were shown portrayals of them as unsympathetic, even in the face of slavery and harsh treatment.

     

    #3: Blackface was widely accepted at the time

    The use of blackface was fairly common and widely accepted in the 1800’s. That widespread acceptance continued until attitudes about racial insensitivity began to change in the middle of the last century. Up until that point, many actors and entertainers performed in blackface, including popular performers like The Three Stooges, Judy Garland, Amos and Andy, Bing Crosby, Fred Austere and cartoons characters like Bugs Bunny.

     

    #4: Blackface had an impact on racial views and resulting laws

    Blackface had a major influence on racial attitudes among whites. It simultaneously hardened unflattering opinions of African Americans, while stoking fears, division and hostility.  In fact, the Jim Crow laws, which established a system of segregation and discrimination in the South, was influenced by a popular song called, “Jump Jim Crow” which featured a white actor, Thomas D. Rice, dressed in blackface, performing a character named “Jim Crow”:

    “Come, listen all you gals and boys, Ise just from Tuckyhoe;
    I’m goin, to sing a little song, My name’s Jim Crow.

    First on de heel tap, den on the toe
    Every time I wheel about I jump Jim Crow.
    I wheel about and turn about an do just so,
    And every time I wheel about I jump Jim Crow.[21]

    CHORUS [after every verse]
    Weel about and turn about and do jis so,
    Eb’ry time I weel about I jump Jim Crow.”

     

    Update:

    Gucci is just the latest public entity facing controversy over the use of blackface. The high-end fashion brand was criticized following the release of its wool balaclava jumper. The piece, from it’s 2018 Fall Collection, looks like a black turtleneck, worn up to the nose, with bright red outlines for the lips. This pattern closely resembles blackface.

    Gucci has since removed the piece and apologized, saying in a statement on Twitter:

    ________________________________________________________________________________________________

    Recommended Posts

  • Ad

  • What are “Notes, Adjustments and Redirects”?

    What are “Notes, Adjustments and Redirects”? Regardless of what one might call them, these changes are usually necessary for a thorough evaluation of the actor’s fitness for the role being cast (By Tonya…

    Never Apologize When You Make a Mistake During an Audition

    Never Apologize When You Make a Mistake During an Audition Don’t apologize during an audition. Ever. If you stumble over your words or make a mistake, simply correct it. Confidently. (by Carmichael Phillips)…

    Never Do This on Your Acting Résumé!

      Never Do This on Your Acting Résumé! This is a brief “NEVER and WTF Were You Thinking!” list (By Carmichael Phillips) Sometimes there are “Should and Shouldn’t” lists. Sometimes there are “Do…

    5 General Rules for Demo Reels

      5 General Rules for Demo Reels Before you get knee-deep into this endeavor, there are a few general rules you should consider. (By Jim Webb) Are you putting your first demo reel…

    Before You Approach an Agent, Get Your S@#t Together!

    Before You Approach an Agent, Get Your S@#t Together! Before you approach an agent, make sure that you are ready to present yourself as an actor who understands the business and understands what…

  • Ad

  • 3 Helpful Suggestions When Slating

    3 Helpful Suggestions When Slating While the slating process may seem insignificant, it represents an additional opportunity for actors to stand-out, when done properly (By Jim Webb) You already know what slating is….

    5 Reasons Why Background Acting is a $h*tty Job

    5 Reasons Why Background Acting is a $h*tty Job Let us count the ways… (By Jim Webb) Recently, I listed five benefits to beginning your acting career as a background actor. To be…

    Look to Acting to Be Your Creative Savior, Not Your Financial Savior

      Look to Acting to Be Your Creative Savior, Not Your Financial Savior Fame and fortune must not be your primary pursuit. They should be the fortuitous byproduct of a larger pursuit (by…

  • Ad

  • 5 Riddles Every Actor Must Solve

    5 Riddles Every Actor Must Solve So many riddles to solve. So little time. And on it goes… (By Carmichael Phillips) In a normal profession, everything is clear and easy to understand. The…

    What is “Slating”?

      What is “Slating”? (By Tonya Tannenbaum) The term, “slating”, for auditions, describes a standard industry practice whereby the actor briefly introduces themselves while facing the camera. This process usually happens right before,…

    5 Basic Facts About Method Acting

      5 Basic Facts about Method Acting Method acting refers to a collection of training techniques meant to aid actors in the understanding and building of their characters (By Jim Webb) Method acting…

    What are “Inner Motives”?

      What are “Inner Motives”? In order to consistently deliver natural, emotionally sincere performances the actor must understand their character’s inner motives (By Tonya Tannenbaum) Inner Motives are the rationales that an actor…

    What are “Animal Exercises”?

    What are “Animal Exercises”? An actor can study how an animal or animals move and, then, use some of those movements when preparing to capture the physicality of their character (By Tonya Tannenbaum)…

  • Ad

  • Actor Stories: How John Krasinski Almost Gave Up on Acting

      Actor Stories: How John Krasinski Almost Gave Up on Acting (By Carmichael Phillips) Check out the story of how actor, John Krasinski, almost gave up on acting, right before his big break….

    Make Sure Your Name is Added to the “Nice” List

      Make Sure Your Name is Added to The “Nice” List You may not get the role you auditioned for, but make sure your name is added to the “nice” list (By Jim…

    Reinvest 50% of Your Cash Back into Your Acting Business

      Reinvest 50% of Your Cash Back into Your Acting Business Of course, each time you repeat this process, your career becomes stronger! Your power becomes stronger. (By Carmichael Phillips) No professional actor…

  • Ad

  • “You have to keep at it!” (Kate Winslet)

    “You have to keep at it (acting)! You do. And if it is the thing you really believe you want to do with your life, you will get there. You just have to…

    5 Benefits of Being a Background Actor

    5 Benefits of Being a Background Actor (By Jim Webb) Who the heck would want to be a background actor? The real question is, why would anyone not want to be a background…

    Actor Stories: How Silvester Stallone Made Himself into a Star

    Actor Stories: How Sylvester Stallone Made Himself Into a Star (By Carmichael Phillips) How bad did Sylvester Stallone have it when he was an aspiring actor? Well, let’s just say that, even doors…

    “You do have to keep working at it. You do have to keep practicing things.” (Kate Winslet)

      “I think what I would honestly say to people starting out [in acting] is that it is difficult. It is definitely a hard job to do. And you do have to keep…

    Will Hollywood ‘Ban’ Georgia?

    Will Hollywood ‘Ban’ Georgia? The ‘Heartbeat Bill’ might end up killing the heartbeat of Georgia’s booming television and movie industry (By Carmichael Phillips) The state of Georgia has become America’s third largest state…

  • Ad

  • “It’s not about losing yourself in the role. It’s about finding yourself in the role.” (Uta Hagen)

    “It’s not about losing yourself in the role. It’s about finding yourself in the role.” (Uta Hagen)     _____________________________________________________________________________________________________ Hagen went on to explain: “In 1947, I worked in a play under…

    3 Hidden Advantages of Self-taping

      3 Hidden Advantages of Self-taping This new wave of self-taping also offers actors enormous advantages (By Carmichael Phillips) Self-taped auditions are the wave of the future, in part, because they offer casting…

    3 Reasons Why You Should Never Audition Just to Book the Job

      3 Reasons Why You Should Never Audition Just to Book the Job If you don’t book this particular job, so what? You’ve now made fans of the auditors in the room. (By…

  • Ad

  • 5 Great Ways to Master Your Cold Read Audition

      5 Great Ways to Master Your Cold Read Audition (By Jim Webb) Doing a cold read audition is a lot like getting thrown into a pool when you haven’t yet learned how…

    Actor Stories: Issa Rae Creates a Role…and Casts Herself!

      Actor Stories: Issa Rae Creates a Role…and Casts Herself! Actors today have more power over their careers than ever before. The Issa Rae story is proof of this. (by Carmichael Phillips) There…

    5 Things You Should Never Do After an Audition

      5 Things You Should Never Do After an Audition (By Jim Webb) There are many things you should never do after an audition. You should already know the obvious ones: Don’t make…

    “That’s what it takes when you’re a struggling actor…You will be poor” (Jenna Fischer)

    “That’s what it takes when you’re a struggling actor. Assume there will be no luxuries. Be prepared to get your furniture from one of three places: thrift stores, garage sales, or the side…

    Narrow Your Focus

    Narrow Your Focus One mistake many actors make is having an unfocused strategy. (Jim Webb) If it seems your acting career is all over the place, narrow your focus and concentrate your strategy….

    Don’t Sabotage Yourself

    Don’t Sabotage Yourself It’s difficult enough for an actor to find and secure a paying gig. Why make it even more difficult by sabotaging your own chances? (By Jim Webb) It’s ok if…

    “I jumped over fears, went through emotional glass doors” (Kim Basinger)

    “I jumped over fears, went through emotional glass doors, did everything I could. There wasn’t one thing I was afraid to do. And I think you have to come to that point as…

    Director John Singleton has died

    Director John Singleton has died (By Carmichael Phillips) Pioneering African American director, John Singleton, has died. The director of urban films like Boyz n the Hood, Baby Boy and Poetic Justice, as well…