Sambo: The Rise and Demise of an American Jester / Edition 1

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Joseph Boskin's Sambo provides a comprehensive history of the rise and decline of "Sambo," the stereotypical image of the black male as a cheerful and comical entertainer. Tracing this American icon in circuses and minstrel shows, in comic strips and novels, in children's stories, in advertisements and illustrations, in films and slides, in magazines and newspapers, and in knickknacks found throughout the house, Boskin demonstrates how the stereotype began to unravel in the 1930's with several radio series, specifically the Jack Benny show, which undercut and altered the "Sambo" image. Finally, the democratic thrust of World War II, coupled with the advent of the Civil Rights movement and growing national recognition of prominent black comedians in the 1950's and '60's, laid Sambo to rest.

This examines the image in all its manifestations, brilliantly analyzing the reasons for its popularity and its ultimate unraveling.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Deftly revealing Sambo's roots in the jester of feudal tradition and focusing on five visagesplantation darky, minstrel man, joke butt, postcard buffoon, and movie chauffeurBoskin explores the old stereotype of the bug-eyed, dancing, dumb, grinning, shuffling darky who once entertained all America. Every era and region knew the image: it filled the material culture from bric-a-brac to whisky pourers from the 1660s to the 1960s and made Sambo ``the first truly indigenous American humor character,'' Boskin argues. His sharp portraits of the visages show how Sambo was used to imprison blacks and their resistance to it. His sometimes brilliant analysis deserves a reading by everyone interested in race and American popular culture. Highly recommended. Thomas J. Davis, African American Studies Dept., SUNY at Buffalo
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195056587
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 9/28/1988
  • Edition description: REPRINT
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 264
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Joseph Boskin is Professor of History and Afro-American Studies and Director of the Urban Studies and Public Policy Program at Boston University. He is the author of Into Slavery and Humor and Social Change in the Twentieth Century.

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Table of Contents

1 An Epitaph Read Backward in Time 3
2 As His Name Is, So Is He 17
3 Ladies and Gentlemen: Your Attention, Please! Would You Welcome The First American Entertainer Sambo!! 42
4 And Performing Today at Balls, Circuses, Theatres Picnics, Churches, Schools, and Prisons--The Indomitable, Spirited, Laughing... Jim Crow, Esquire!! 65
5 Impressions in Boldface 95
6 Prismatic Projections 121
7 The Camera Eye 148
8 The Radio Ear: The Odd-Couples Connection 164
9 The Fool as an Emancipator 198
Notes 225
Index 245
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