Photo Gallery: Black Actors on Stage and Screen

Vintage images from stage, film, vaudeville, radio, and early television

Kicha‘s images represent vintage snapshots into the lives of African Americans. The good, the bad and the ugly.

“Even today the motion picture has not quite outgrown its immaturity. It still uses talented Negro players to fit into the ~d stereotypes of the loving Mammy and comic servant…”
-Edith J. R. Isaachs in “TheaterArts, “August, 1942

“I didn’t mind playing a maid the first time, because I thought that was how you got into the business. But after I did the same thing over and over, I began to resent it. I didn’t mind being funny, but I didn’t like being stupid.”
– Butterfly McQueen

“I never felt the chance to rise above the role of maid in Hollywood movies. My color was against me. The fact that I was not ‘hot’ stamped me as either an uppity ‘Negress’ or relegated me to the eternal role of stooge or servant. I can sing but so can hundreds of other girls. My ambitions are to be an actress. Hollywood had no parts for me.”
– Theresa Harris

 

Portrayal of Minorities in the Film, Media and Entertainment Industries

Blacks have been treated as second-class citizens since the inception of this country. Forcibly brought here as slaves to the white man, blacks have never been treated as completely equal to whites. Stereotypes of blacks as lazy, stupid, foolish, cowardly, submissive, irresponsible, childish, violent, sub-human, and animal-like, are rampant in today’s society. These degrading stereotypes are reinforced and enhanced by the negative portrayal of blacks in the media. Black characters have appeared in American films since the beginning of the industry in 1 888. But blacks weren’t even hired to portray blacks in early works. Instead, white actors and actresses were hired to portray the characters while in “blackface.” (http:/www.moderntimes.com/palace/black/open.htm). By refusing to hire black actors to portray black characters, demeaning stereotypes were being created as blacks were presented in an unfavorable light. In addition, blacks were purposely portrayed in films with negative stereotypes that reinforced white supremacy over blacks. This has had a tremendous effect on our society’s view of blacks since motion pictures have had more of an impact on the public mind than any other entertainment medium in the last ninety years. (Sampson 1977; 1)

The media sets the tone for the morals, values, and images of our culture. Many people in this country, some of whom have never encountered black people, believe that the degrading stereotypes of blacks are based on reality and not fiction. Everything they believe about blacks is determined by what they see on television. After over a century of movie making, these horrible stereotypes continue to plague us today, and until negative images of blacks are extinguished from the media, blacks will be regarded as second-class citizens.
We have come a long way since 1914, when Sam Lucas was the first black actor to have a lead role in a movie for his performance in Uncle Tom’s Cabin.. MORE

 

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1 reply

  1. I posted a similar piece at my website, BlackHistoryMonth2014.com. One of the featured pieces was on the Blaxplotiation films of the 1970’s. Although progress has been made, many of the stereotypes still persist.

    Like

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