Sambo: The Rise and Demise of an American Jester

Sambo: The Rise and Demise of an American Jester

by Joseph Boskin
     
 

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,…  See more details below

Overview

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.

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
From the Publisher
"One of those rare works whose appearance must provoke astonishment that no previous author has ever tackled it."—American Quarterly

"A major contribution to an important topic in Afro-American history. Boskin has written a book that is both readable and informative and will add substantially to the scholarship in the field."—Journal of Southern History

"Intriguing, witty, and often insightful social history."—The New York Times Book Review

"A major contribution to the study of stereotypes, the history of theatricals and other entertainments in America, and the analysis of material culture in the United States."—The Philadelphia Inquirer

"A model of American studies methodology and a premier popular culture study of a troublesome, yet fascinating American icon....A signal contribution to the study of the influence of popular culture upon American race relations."—Choice

"Deserves a reading by everyone interested in race and American popular culture. Highly recommended."—Library Journal

"A good investment for readers who want to know how it really was."—West Coast Review of Books

"This is very good—I will probably assign it the next time I teach my American humor course."—Dr. Thomas Altherr, Metropolitan State College

"An excellent book."—L. Cassuto, Fordham University, Lincoln Center

"A first-rate addition to cultural history."—Booklist

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780195040746
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
11/27/1986
Pages:
262
Product dimensions:
5.75(w) x 8.56(h) x 1.00(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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