"Camptown Races" sung by Al Jolson

"Minstrel" was America's original entertainment form, and arguably its most racist. In its beginnings in the 19th century, white groups put on elaborate shows supposedly modeled after Black speech and song. These minstrel shows did not honor African-American culture but instead mocked it and made fun of it. Minstrel entertainers put ink-black grease paint on their faces and exaggerated the size of their lips with red or white paint, all in an effort to pretend to be mimicking Black Folks' appearance.

Minstrel shows were held all over this country through the 19th century and deep into the 20th. Some were even held at the old Athenian Nile Club, the building in downtown Oakland that now houses Geoffrey's Inner Circle.

Actor/singer Al Jolson was one of the most famous perpetrators of this anti-Black bigoted mocking. His movie "The Jazz Singer," in which he got down on his knees and sang the song "Mammy" in blackface in one of the scenes, was the first "sound picture" made in this country; that is, the first one in which speech and other sounds accompanied the film.

"Camptown Races" in the video below shows Jolson at the height of this abomination.


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