I bought an interesting photograph recently. Well, interesting to me anyway. Extremely rare, I have never seen another one of this subject. I have showed it to a couple of people and two auction houses and I guess that it is considered crass and off putting in today's politically correct world. Not interested.
You see it depicts people in blackface. And that bothers some of the more woken people today.
In the 1840s and '50s, William Henry Lane and Thomas Dilward became the first African Americans to perform on the minstrel stage. All-black troupes followed as early as 1855. These companies emphasized that their ethnicity made them the only true delineators of black song and dance, with one advertisement describing a troupe as "SEVEN SLAVES just from Alabama, who are EARNING THEIR FREEDOM by giving concerts under the guidance of their Northern friends."
African Americans formed a large part of the black minstrels' audience, especially for smaller troupes. In fact, their numbers were so great that many theater owners had to relax rules relegating black patrons to certain areas. The reasons for the popularity of this openly racist form of entertainment with black audiences have long been debated by historians. Perhaps they felt in on the joke, laughing at the over-the-top characters from a sense of "in-group recognition". Maybe they even implicitly endorsed the racist antics, or they felt some connection to elements of an African culture that had been suppressed but was visible, albeit in racist, exaggerated form, in minstrel personages.They certainly got many jokes that flew over whites' heads or registered as only quaint distractions. An undeniable draw for black audiences was simply seeing fellow African Americans on stage; black minstrels were largely viewed as celebrities.
As early as 1911, at the age of 25, Jolson was noted for fighting discrimination on Broadway and later in his movies. He promoted a play by Garland Anderson which became the first production with an all-black cast produced on Broadway. He brought a black dance team from San Francisco that he tried to put in a Broadway show.; He demanded equal treatment for Cab Calloway, with whom he performed duets in the movie The Singing Kid.Jolson read in the newspaper that songwriters Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle, neither of whom he had ever heard of, were refused service at a Connecticut restaurant because of their race. He tracked them down and took them out to dinner, "insisting he'd punch anyone in the nose who tried to kick us out!"According to biographer Al Rose, Jolson and Blake became friends and went to boxing matches together.Film historian Charles Musser notes, "African Americans' embrace of Jolson was not a spontaneous reaction to his appearance in talking pictures. In an era when African Americans did not have to go looking for enemies, Jolson was perceived a friend."
In any case, history be damned. People would rather be offended by the mores of the past and deny reality and history because it is inconvenient and difficult to square with today's most enlightened citizenry.