The Blackface Minstrel Show in Mass Media

20th Century Performances on Radio, Records, Film and Television


In stock

About the Book

The minstrel show occupies a complex and controversial space in the history of American popular culture. Today considered a shameful relic of America’s racist past, it nonetheless offered many black performers of the 19th and early 20th centuries their only opportunity to succeed in a white-dominated entertainment world, where white performers in blackface had by the 1830s established minstrelsy as an enduringly popular national art form. This book traces the often overlooked history of the “modern” minstrel show through the advent of 20th century mass media—when stars like Al Jolson, Bing Crosby and Mickey Rooney continued a long tradition of affecting black music, dance and theatrical styles for mainly white audiences—to its abrupt end in the 1950s. A companion two-CD reissue of recordings discussed in the book is available from Archeophone Records at

About the Author(s)

Tim Brooks is a retired TV network executive and author of nine books about the history of American media. He has won numerous awards for his work, including an American Book Award and a Grammy Award for a reissue of historical recordings. He lives in Connecticut.

Bibliographic Details

Tim Brooks

Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 290
Bibliographic Info: 70 photos, appendices, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2020
pISBN: 978-1-4766-7676-0
eISBN: 978-1-4766-3730-3
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments v
Preface 1
1. The Origins of Blackface Minstrelsy 7
2. The Minstrel Show on Records 32
3. The Minstrel Show on Radio 95
4. The Minstrel Show in Motion Pictures 138
5. The Minstrel Show on Television 178
6. Epilogue and Conclusions 197
Appendix 1. Prominent Minstrel Troupes Active after 1890 207
Appendix 2. Discography of Minstrel Recordings 214
Appendix 3. Early Recording Artists with Minstrel Experience 250
Chapter Notes 255
Bibliography 265
Index 269

Book Reviews & Awards

• Winner, ARSC Award for Excellence

The Minstrel Show in Mass Media tells the rest of the story. It tells it completely and succinctly… At an approachable length, and as riveting as any secret knowledge, it should be included in every syllabus that touches this subject. These are the unvarnished facts”—The Syncopated Times

• “[Brooks] writes with obvious knowledge from impeccable research in an engaging and eminently readable style…astonishingly thorough account … For anyone with even the slightest interest in vintage entertainment, this volume should be on your bookshelf as soon as possible.”—For the Record