Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Black Face and Minstrel Shows

This recent black face discussion brought back a strange memory. At some point during my childhood, probably when I was around 5 years old, I attended a minstrel show at the elementary school in Bellaire, MI. I didn't realize what I had witnessed until much later in life. Today, I found this article that discusses how common these events were up until the early 70s. I remember being at this event but can't remember who took me. Maybe, that's for the best. Those of us that grew up in the north tend to have a sense of superiority when it comes to race relations. After all, northerners fought in the war that freed the slaves. But, the north also has a history of minstrel shows and have some of the most segregated cities in the country. I remember Don Miller, our history teacher, telling a story about meeting a lady who emigrated from the deep south to the Detroit area back when he was a teenager during the Civil Rights era. He said to her that she must really be thrilled to be away from the south and all that racism. She told him, not really. She said that in the south she knew where she wasn't welcome. In the north she had to learn where she wasn't allowed. Over thirty years later, I heard the comedian Roy Wood Jr. make the same observation in a stand up routine. The more things change...

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