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   This term refers to performers "blacking up" with burnt cork to play exaggerated versions of African Americans, typically in minstrel shows and early musicals, although white actors in blackface often played African American characters in straight plays as well. The minstrel show, one of the most durable entertainments of the 19th and early 20th centuries, ostensibly began in the 1820s when entertainer T. D. Rice adopted the practice in a performance in Baltimore after supposedly witnessing an elderly black man doing an eccentric dance. The "Jump Jim Crow" routine Rice perfected was widely imitated when minstrel shows, which were essentially variety attractions featuring songs, dances, and comedy, sprang up around the United States.
   By the 1840s, Dan Emmett founded the Virginia Minstrels, an early prototype of the tradition continued by E. P. Christy and others. Blackface was dropped for a time in all-white, all-black, and mixed-race troupes, but by the 1880s, audiences who had seen it for generations demanded its return. As the popularity of minstrel troupes declined, blackface transferred into vaudeville and musical comedy, used by many white entertainers, including Al Jolson, Eddie Leonard, Eddie Cantor, Bing Crosby, Judy Garland, and by Ziegfeld Follies star Bert Williams, an African American. The technique of applying blackface is wonderfully shown as a part of Jolson's performance in the 1927 motion picture The Jazz Singer. By the 1930s, most performers had abandoned blackface as an outmoded and demeaning stereotype.

The Historical Dictionary of the American Theater. .

Look at other dictionaries:

  • blackface — ☆ blackface [blak′fās΄] adj. having a black or blackened face n. black makeup used by a performer, as in a minstrel show …   English World dictionary

  • Blackface — For other uses, see Blackface (disambiguation). This reproduction of a 1900 William H. West minstrel show poster, originally published by the Strobridge Litho Co., shows the transformation from white to black . Blackface is a form of theatrical… …   Wikipedia

  • Blackface — Demande de traduction Blackface → Blackface …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Blackface — Reproduktion eines Minstrel Show Plakats aus dem Jahre 1900. Es zeigt die Verwandlung von „weiß“ nach „schwarz“. Blackface ist eine rassistisch geprägte Theater und Unterhaltungsmaskerade, die in den Minstrel Shows des 19. Jahrhunderts in den… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • blackface — /blak fays /, n. 1. Theat. a. an entertainer, esp. one in a minstrel show, made up in the role of a black. b. the makeup, as burnt cork, used in this role: They performed in blackface. 2. Print. a heavy faced type. [1695 1705; BLACK + FACE] * * * …   Universalium

  • blackface — noun Date: 1869 makeup applied to a performer playing a black person especially in a minstrel show; also a performer wearing such makeup …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • blackface — noun a style of theatrical makeup in which a white person blackens the face in order to represent a negro …   Wiktionary

  • blackface — n. theatrical makeup used by a performer impersonating a black person; performer who wears such makeup …   English contemporary dictionary

  • blackface — noun 1》 a sheep of a breed with a black face. 2》 the make up used by a non black performer playing a black role …   English new terms dictionary

  • blackface — black•face [[t]ˈblækˌfeɪs[/t]] n. 1) sbz a) black facial makeup, orig. burnt cork, worn by theatrical performers, esp. in minstrel shows b) a performer wearing such makeup 2) pri a heavy faced type • Etymology: 1695–1705 …   From formal English to slang

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