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Why did Al Jolson and other white actors wear blackface makeup on stage?

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βˆ™ 2009-03-19 02:54:48

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== == Wearing black face makeup was a common theater technique in the early 1900s used by white performers in order to mimic and appear as a black person on stage. Blacks were not accepted on the Broadway stage during that period due to racial prejudice. The audiences knew it was only makeup and understood that this was the only way they could see an act of a pseudo-black performance. However, a number of entertainers, including Al Jolson and Eddie Cantor, were sensitive to the musical talents of blacks and their creation of the new genre of totally American music, such as as ragtime, jazz, and blues, and chose to perform it on stage. Real black music could only be heard and experienced in small unknown clubs or in cities like New Orleans that had a larger indigenous black population. Jolson, being the most famous singer of that time period, used black face makeup and performed jazz-style black music, thereby introducing it to America's white theater audiences. He did this despite widespread racial prejudice and thereby is credited most for the eventual acceptance and assimilation of black music into America's booming entertainment industry, including film, stage, and recorded music. His first movie, which was noted for being the world's first talkie (using sound technology,) was The Jazz Singer, and was released in 1927. It effectively ended the age of the silent movie.

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