In 1930, 40 million Americans tuned in to Amos 'n' Andy, a radio serial created and acted by two white men, about the adventures of two southern blacks Ely follows the history of the show, discusses the strange charm of the scripts, and the serial's impact on racial issues.
Freeman Gosden, Charles Correll and the 1928–1943 Radio Serial
Author: Elizabeth McLeod
Category: Performing Arts
This critical reexamination of Amos ’n’ Andy, the pioneering creation of Charles Correll and Freeman Gosden, presents an unapologetic but balanced view lacking in most treatments. It relies upon an untapped resource—thousands of pages of scripts from the show’s nearly forgotten earliest version, which most clearly reflected the vision of its creators. Consequently, it provides fresh insights and in part refutes the usual blanket condemnations of this groundbreaking show. The text incorporates numerous script excerpts, provides key background information, and also acknowledges the show’s importance to radio broadcasting and modern entertainment.
"Even well-meaning fiction writers of the late Jim Crow era (1900-1955) perpetuated racial stereotypes in their depiction of black characters.The best known white writers of black characters included Booth Tarkington, Irvin S. Cobb, Roark Bradford, Hugh Wiley, Charles Correll and Freeman Gosden. These writers left a curious legacy that deserves examination"--
Created by George Gershwin and DuBose Heyward and sung by generations of black performers, Porgy and Bess has been both embraced and reviled since its debut in 1935. In this comprehensive account, Ellen Noonan examines the opera's long history of invention and reinvention as a barometer of twentieth-century American expectations about race, culture, and the struggle for equality. In its surprising endurance lies a myriad of local, national, and international stories. For black performers and commentators, Porgy and Bess was a nexus for debates about cultural representation and racial uplift. White producers, critics, and even audiences spun revealing racial narratives around the show, initially in an attempt to demonstrate its authenticity and later to keep it from becoming discredited or irrelevant. Expertly weaving together the wide-ranging debates over the original novel, Porgy, and its adaptations on stage and film with a history of its intimate ties to Charleston, The Strange Career of "Porgy and Bess" uncovers the complexities behind one of our nation's most long-lived cultural touchstones.
Family Stories, Popular Culture, and Postwar Democracy, 1940-1960
Author: Judith E. Smith
Publisher: Columbia University Press
Visions of Belonging explores how beloved and still-remembered family stories—A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, I Remember Mama, Gentleman's Agreement, Death of a Salesman, Marty, and A Raisin in the Sun—entered the popular imagination and shaped collective dreams in the postwar years and into the 1950s. These stories helped define widely shared conceptions of who counted as representative Americans and who could be recognized as belonging. The book listens in as white and black authors and directors, readers and viewers reveal divergent, emotionally textured, and politically charged social visions. Their diverse perspectives provide a point of entry into an extraordinary time when the possibilities for social transformation seemed boundless. But changes were also fiercely contested, especially as the war's culture of unity receded in the resurgence of cold war anticommunism, and demands for racial equality were met with intensifying white resistance. Judith E. Smith traces the cultural trajectory of these family stories, as they circulated widely in bestselling paperbacks, hit movies, and popular drama on stage, radio, and television. Visions of Belonging provides unusually close access to a vibrant conversation among white and black Americans about the boundaries between public life and family matters and the meanings of race and ethnicity. Would the new appearance of white working class ethnic characters expand Americans'understanding of democracy? Would these stories challenge the color line? How could these stories simultaneously show that black families belonged to the larger "family" of the nation while also representing the forms of danger and discriminations that excluded them from full citizenship? In the 1940s, war-driven challenges to racial and ethnic borderlines encouraged hesitant trespass against older notions of "normal." But by the end of the 1950s, the cold war cultural atmosphere discouraged probing of racial and social inequality and ultimately turned family stories into a comforting retreat from politics. The book crosses disciplinary boundaries, suggesting a novel method for cultural history by probing the social history of literary, dramatic, and cinematic texts. Smith's innovative use of archival research sets authorial intent next to audience reception to show how both contribute to shaping the contested meanings of American belonging.
Technological Change and the Rise of Corporate Mass Media
Author: Steve J. Wurtzler
Publisher: Columbia University Press
Category: Performing Arts
Electric Sounds brings to vivid life an era when innovations in the production, recording, and transmission of sound revolutionized a number of different media, especially the radio, the phonograph, and the cinema. The 1920s and 1930s marked some of the most important developments in the history of the American mass media: the film industry's conversion to synchronous sound, the rise of radio networks and advertising-supported broadcasting, the establishment of a federal regulatory framework on which U.S. communications policy continues to be based, the development of several powerful media conglomerates, and the birth of a new acoustic commodity in which a single story, song, or other product was made available to consumers in multiple media forms and formats. But what role would this new media play in society? Celebrants saw an opportunity for educational and cultural uplift; critics feared the degradation of the standards of public taste. Some believed acoustic media would fulfill the promise of participatory democracy by better informing the public, while others saw an opportunity for manipulation. The innovations of this period prompted not only a restructuring and consolidation of corporate mass media interests and a shift in the conventions and patterns of media consumption but also a renegotiation of the social functions assigned to mass media forms. Steve J. Wurtzler's impeccably researched history adds a new dimension to the study of sound media, proving that the ultimate form technology takes is never predetermined. Rather, it is shaped by conflicting visions of technological possibility in economic, cultural, and political realms. Electric Sounds also illustrates the process through which technologies become media and the ways in which media are integrated into American life.
How the South Was Created in American Popular Culture
Author: Karen L. Cox
Publisher: UNC Press Books
Category: Social Science
From the late nineteenth century through World War II, popular culture portrayed the American South as a region ensconced in its antebellum past, draped in moonlight and magnolias, and represented by such southern icons as the mammy, the belle, the chivalrous planter, white-columned mansions, and even bolls of cotton. In Dreaming of Dixie, Karen Cox shows that the chief purveyors of nostalgia for the Old South were outsiders of the region, playing to consumers' anxiety about modernity by marketing the South as a region still dedicated to America's pastoral traditions. In addition, Cox examines how southerners themselves embraced the imaginary romance of the region's past.
This book examines the representation of blackness on television at the height of the southern civil rights movement and again in the aftermath of the Reagan-Bush years. In the process, it looks carefully at how television's ideological projects with respect to race have supported or conflicted with the industry's incentive to maximize profits or consolidate power. Sasha Torres examines the complex relations between the television industry and the civil rights movement as a knot of overlapping interests. She argues that television coverage of the civil rights movement during 1955-1965 encouraged viewers to identify with black protestors and against white police, including such infamous villains as Birmingham's Bull Connor and Selma's Jim Clark. Torres then argues that television of the 1990s encouraged viewers to identify with police against putatively criminal blacks, even in its dramatizations of police brutality. Torres's pioneering analysis makes distinctive contributions to its fields. It challenges television scholars to consider the historical centrality of race to the constitution of the medium's genres, visual conventions, and industrial structures. And it displaces the analytical focus on stereotypes that has hamstrung assessments of television's depiction of African Americans, concentrating instead on the ways in which African Americans and their political collectives have actively shaped that depiction to advance civil rights causes. This book also challenges African American studies to pay closer and better attention to television's ongoing role in the organization and disorganization of U.S. racial politics.
The Long Reconstruction of Popular Politics in the South, 1861-1908
Author: Gregory Downs
Publisher: UNC Press Books
In this highly original study, Gregory Downs argues that the most American of wars, the Civil War, created a seemingly un-American popular politics, rooted not in independence but in voluntary claims of dependence. Through an examination of the pleas and petitions of ordinary North Carolinians, Declarations of Dependence contends that the Civil War redirected, not destroyed, claims of dependence by exposing North Carolinians to the expansive but unsystematic power of Union and Confederate governments, and by loosening the legal ties that bound them to husbands, fathers, and masters. Faced with anarchy during the long reconstruction of government authority, people turned fervently to the government for protection and sustenance, pleading in fantastic, intimate ways for attention. This personalistic, or what Downs calls patronal, politics allowed for appeals from subordinate groups like freed blacks and poor whites, and also bound people emotionally to newly expanding postwar states. Downs's argument rewrites the history of the relationship between Americans and their governments, showing the deep roots of dependence, the complex impact of the Civil War upon popular politics, and the powerful role of Progressivism and segregation in submerging a politics of dependence that--in new form--rose again in the New Deal and persists today.