Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim Crow
By Cheryl McGinnis
“Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim Crow” exhibit runs through March 3, 2019
Jim Crow was a character created by a white actor for minstrel shows in NYC
When Megyn Kelly made another in a series of racist comments last month, it wasn’t very surprising. However, her latest tirade about dressing up in blackface got me writing to NBC with historical facts based on a remarkable exhibit at the New-York Historical Society. It opened on September 6 and runs through to March 3, 2019 called Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim Crow.
Why This Matters: Here are some of the facts, NBC and Megyn Kelly overlooked: Jim Crow was a character created by a white actor for minstrel shows in NYC. During the time of a devastating failed Reconstruction that produced the Ku Klux Klan, white performer Thomas Dartmouth, aka Daddy Rice did a song and dance Jump Jim Crow or Jim Crow in blackface.
As a result of Rice’s fame and the popularity of blackface minstrel shows the term Jim Crow had a pejorative meaning for African Americans and the laws of racial segregation became known as Jim Crow laws. The notion of blackface is one that is so cruel yet at the time seemed innocuous.
Mostly enjoyed by New York theatre goers, they city’s residents for the most part didn’t consider themselves racist and felt this was entertainment. Little did they understand anytime a person and in this case an entire race is dehumanized and reduced to repeated caricatures, seeds of disdain, intolerance, mercilessness and hatred are planted.
Situational Awareness: So while the north enjoyed the character of Jim Crow, the south armed themselves in the form of the Klan and newly freed black people once again had to fight for their own emancipation. Through every aspect of society, from lack of voting rights, to separate but equal laws, to being laughed at in the form of blackface minstrel shows, newly freed African Americans continued to empower themselves to freedom.
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