The Black and White Minstrel Show

In 1964 dad bought our first record player and for the first time we could play singles and long players and the first two records that were bought to accompany the new record player were a Jim Reeves single and a Black and White Minstrel extended play with four medleys on it.  Later that year Jim Reeves was killed in a plane crash so we never added to that collection and thankfully I don’t think we added any more Black and White Minstrel records either.

Even more than the Val Doonican show I used to hate the Black and White Minstrels which was generally shown on television at Saturday teatime and was possibly one of the most politically incorrect programmes imaginable (even worse than ‘It aint half hot mum’ or ‘On the Buses’) with white men ‘blacking-up’ as negroes and singing songs from deep south Dixie.  The show was first broadcast on 14th June 1958 and by 1964 it was so popular it was attracting an estimated eighteen million viewers!   And this was at a time when the Civil Rights movement in the United States was moving up a gear or two and demands for social justice were leading to violence and confrontation.

During this time there was one of the last great efforts by white supremacists to frustrate the introduction of equalities.  The Ku Klux Klan was a bunch of racist bigots that dressed in white cloaks and pointy hats and advocated white supremacy, anti-Semitism, anti-Catholicism, racism, homophobia, anti-communism and nativism.  This was a bunch of genuinely nasty people who you really didn’t want as next door neighbours or to find knocking on your door in the middle of the night.  The Klan often used terrorism, violence and acts of intimidation, such as cross burning and lynching to oppress African Americans and just about every other social or ethnic group that they couldn’t get along with.

Ironically, the Black and White Minstrel Show was one of the very first to be shown in colour on BBC Two in 1967 and amazingly, despite the offensive content, the programme continued to be broadcast until 1978!

7 responses to “The Black and White Minstrel Show

  1. Brilliant post. I remember watching this as a child but had no idea it had run until 1978!

  2. What FR said. I can’t remember whether I liked it, disliked it, or just had to watch it because it was on 😀 Interesting that 50 or so years ago, someone obviously thought it was a bright idea for a variety act, and that back then there was no concept of how portraying black people like that perpetuates racial ignorance and stereotypes (etc etc etc).

    Now as for Val Doonican… I definitely remember disliking him.

    • Yep, the B&W minstrels were in incredibly bad taste but I bet if anybody had challenged it, the response from most people would have been, ‘Oh don’t be daft, it’s just a bit of fun.’
      All I remember about Val Doonican was his large-patterned jumpers and didn’t he have a rocking chair? And sang songs that weren’t terribly exciting to children.

    • I remember most of Saturday night TV was bad when I was a kid. Lulu Show, Cliff Richard Show, Mike & Bernie Winters Show etc. etc.

  3. Knew a cast member called Peter Dalton whose other claim to fame was in Joan Littlewood’s production of ‘Oh What a Lovely War’ in London and New York. Had a great voice. Anyone have anything on/ about him?

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