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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 makeup used by performers to represent a black person. The practice gained popularity during the 19th century and contributed to the proliferation of stereotypes such as the "happy-go-lucky darky on the plantation" or the "dandified coon".<ref>For the "darky"/"coon" distinction see, for example, note 34 on p. 167 of Edward Marx and Laura E. Franey's annotated edition of Yone Noguchi, The American Diary of a Japanese Girl, Temple University Press, 2007, ISBN 1-59213-555-2. See also Lewis A. Erenberg (1984), Steppin' Out: New York Nightlife and the Transformation of American Culture, 1890–1930, University of Chicago Press, p. 73, ISBN 0-226-21515-6. For more on the "darky" stereotype, see J. Ronald Green (2000), Straight Lick: The Cinema of Oscar Micheaux, Indiana University Press, pp. 134, 206, ISBN 0-253-33753-4; p. 151 of the same work also alludes to the specific "coon" archetype.</ref> In 1848, blackface minstrel shows were an American national art of the time, translating formal art such as opera into popular terms for a general audience.<ref>William J. Mahar, Behind the Burnt Cork Mask: Early Blackface Minstrelsy and Antebellum American Popular Culture, University of Illinois Press (1998), p. 9, ISBN 0-252-06696-0.</ref> Early in the 20th century, blackface branched off from the minstrel show and became a form in its own right, until it ended in the United States with the U.S. Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.<ref>Frank W. Sweet, A History of the Minstrel Show, Backintyme (2000), p. 25, ISBN 0-939479-21-4</ref>

Blackface was an important performance tradition in the American theater for roughly 100 years beginning around 1830. It quickly became popular elsewhere, particularly so in Britain, where the tradition lasted longer than in the US, occurring on primetime TV, most famously in The Black and White Minstrel Show (which ended in 1978)<ref name="Black_and_white_minstrel">{{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}</ref> and in Are You Being Served?‍ '​s Christmas specials in 1976<ref>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=episode }}</ref> and finally in 1981.<ref>{{#invoke:citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=episode }}</ref> In both the United States and Britain, blackface was most commonly used in the minstrel performance tradition, which it both predated and outlasted. White blackface performers in the past used burnt cork and later greasepaint or shoe polish to blacken their skin and exaggerate their lips, often wearing woolly wigs, gloves, tailcoats, or ragged clothes to complete the transformation. Later, black artists also performed in blackface.

Stereotypes embodied in the stock characters of blackface minstrels not only played a significant role in cementing and proliferating racist images, attitudes, and perceptions worldwide, but also in popularizing black culture.<ref>Lott, Eric. "Blackface and Blackness: The Minstrel Show in American Culture", in Annemarie Bean, James V. Hatch, and Brooks McNamara (eds), Inside the minstrel mask: readings in nineteenth-century blackface minstrelsy, pp. 5-6.</ref> In some quarters, the caricatures that were the legacy of blackface persist to the present day and are a cause of ongoing controversy. Another view is that "blackface is a form of cross-dressing in which one puts on the insignias of a sex, class, or race that stands in binary opposition to one's own."<ref>Rogin, Michael (University of California Press 1998) Blackface, White Noise: Jewish Immigrants in the Hollywood Melting Pot (p. 30)</ref>

By the mid-20th century, changing attitudes about race and racism effectively ended the prominence of blackface makeup used in performance in the U.S. and elsewhere. It remains in relatively limited use as a theatrical device and is more commonly used today as social commentary or satire. Perhaps the most enduring effect of blackface is the precedent it established in the introduction of African-American culture to an international audience, albeit through a distorted lens.<ref name=Lott-17-18>{{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}</ref><ref name="Watkins 82">{{#invoke:Footnotes|harvard_citation_no_bracket}}</ref> Blackface's groundbreaking appropriation,<ref name=Lott-17-18 /><ref name="Watkins 82" /><ref>Inside the minstrel mask: Readings in nineteenth-century blackface minstrelsy by Bean, Annemarie, James V. Hatch, and Brooks McNamara. 1996. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press.</ref> exploitation, and assimilation<ref name=Lott-17-18 /> of African-American culture—as well as the inter-ethnic artistic collaborations that stemmed from it—were but a prologue to the lucrative packaging, marketing, and dissemination of African-American cultural expression and its myriad derivative forms in today's world popular culture.<ref name="Watkins 82" /><ref>Jason Rodriquez, "Color-Blind Ideology and the Cultural Appropriation of Hip-Hop", Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, Vol. 35, No. 6, 645–68 (2006).</ref><ref>Darktown Strutters. – book reviews by Eric Lott, African American Review, Spring 1997.</ref>


Blackface sections
Intro  History  Authentic or counterfeit  \"Darky\" iconography  Modern-day manifestations  Legacy  See also  References  External links  

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