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!