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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: 1890s Minstrel Portrait of Stephen Wright with Interesting Banjo


Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link: http://www.banjohangout.org/archive/372346

Clifton Hicks - Posted - 02/01/2021:  09:43:24


Anyone know anything about this performer? Photo is in the Georgia Archives labeled "Stephen M. Wright, Macon, Georgia, 1898."


Edited by - Clifton Hicks on 02/01/2021 09:43:47



 

maneckep - Posted - 02/01/2021:  09:52:55


Don't know anything about the person but the banjo could be an August Pullman banjo-mandolin.

staceyz - Posted - 02/01/2021:  10:08:31


The instrument is 100% August Pollman, but I think it is the mandolin guitar version. (I don't see a 5th string tuner)

Knows Picker - Posted - 02/01/2021:  11:10:16


Mike Gregory in blackface??

Hmm, the age is about right.

Bill H - Posted - 02/01/2021:  14:29:59


The photo is offensive, in my opinion.

Bill H - Posted - 02/02/2021:  03:19:17


The character "JIm Crow" was created by white performer Thomas Rice in 1828. His song and dance became a national sensation. Here is reprint of a 1978 article from American Heritage by historian Robert Toll, about the tradition and impact of this cultural phenomenon.



"Blackface: the Sad History of Minstrel Shows

tron.miller - Posted - 02/02/2021:  05:12:01


quote:

Originally posted by Bill H

The photo is offensive, in my opinion.






What on earth does that mean??  



Are you offended the photo exists?  Should this part of history be expunged?  Are you offended that something happened that was acceptable at the time but was determined to be wrong and put behind us?  Should It be taboo to discuss those that participated? Are you personally aggrieved or are you aggrieved for others?  

mike gregory - Posted - 02/02/2021:  05:39:21


quote:

Originally posted by Knows Picker

Mike Gregory in blackface??



Hmm, the age is about right.






Back when nobody in my little white village knew it was wrong, I did put some burnt cork on my face, for Hallowe'en, but that was three or four years before my uncle gave me his old banjo.



So, no.

Ira Gitlin - Posted - 02/02/2021:  05:53:39


quote:

Originally posted by Bill H

The character "JIm Crow" was created by white performer Thomas Rice in 1828. His song and dance became a national sensation. Here is reprint of a 1978 article from American Heritage by historian Robert Toll, about the tradition and impact of this cultural phenomenon.



"Blackface: the Sad History of Minstrel Shows






Thanks for the link. I'm sure almost everyone in this forum is familiar with at least the rough outlines of the history of the minstrel show. We all (?) recognize how it expressed the deplorable racism that was endemic at the time. Let's stipulate that (as the attorneys say),  while we discuss other aspects of this important cultural phenomenon.

Joel Hooks - Posted - 02/02/2021:  06:26:08


quote:

Originally posted by Bill H

The photo is offensive, in my opinion.






The history of the banjo is offensive, which is why we should discuss it.  The folklorists tried to ignore minstrelsy and we are still cleaning up the damage they left on history.



 

dbrooks - Posted - 02/02/2021:  06:27:39


quote:

Originally posted by Bill H

The character "JIm Crow" was created by white performer Thomas Rice in 1828. His song and dance became a national sensation. Here is reprint of a 1978 article from American Heritage by historian Robert Toll, about the tradition and impact of this cultural phenomenon.



"Blackface: the Sad History of Minstrel Shows






Thanks for posting the link to this article. In 1969, I was the banjo player in "The Stephen Foster Story," an outdoor musical in my hometown, Bardstown, KY. One of the scenes was a minstrel show featuring E.P. Christy's Minstrels with Mr. Tambo, Mr. Bones and me, Mr. Banjo. We wore black socks over our faces with white rings around the eyes and mouth. The point of the scene was to show the inappropriate use of Foster's song, "Old Folks at Home" (performed as a rollicking song rather than a lament). The script for the show has been rewritten, and I am sure the minstrel scene has been dropped, but it's interesting to point out the original script was very attuned to racial issues and the Black characters were treated with great respect. 



Minstrelsy may have led to vaudeville and other stage genres, but the Jim Crow stains persist to this day.



David


Edited by - dbrooks on 02/02/2021 06:29:15

Joel Hooks - Posted - 02/02/2021:  06:31:48


quote:

Originally posted by Bill H

The character "JIm Crow" was created by white performer Thomas Rice in 1828. His song and dance became a national sensation. Here is reprint of a 1978 article from American Heritage by historian Robert Toll, about the tradition and impact of this cultural phenomenon.



"Blackface: the Sad History of Minstrel Shows






Toll made some major errors in his writings.  One example from "Behind The Burnt Cork Mask" is his claim that John "Picayune" Butler was Black.  This is a very strange conclusion for Toll to make as there is zero evidence of this, and a large amount to the contrary.



Tony Thomas explored this down to the smallest detail.  Conclusion was that Toll was wrong.



I don't know what Toll's motives were, but this "fact" keeps getting recycled over and over again.



I would read his writings with a skeptical eye.

Joel Hooks - Posted - 02/02/2021:  06:35:44


quote:

Originally posted by dbrooks

quote:

Originally posted by Bill H

The character "JIm Crow" was created by white performer Thomas Rice in 1828. His song and dance became a national sensation. Here is reprint of a 1978 article from American Heritage by historian Robert Toll, about the tradition and impact of this cultural phenomenon.



"Blackface: the Sad History of Minstrel Shows






Thanks for posting the link to this article. In 1969, I was the banjo player in "The Stephen Foster Story," an outdoor musical in my hometown, Bardstown, KY. One of the scenes was a minstrel show featuring E.P. Christy's Minstrels with Mr. Tambo, Mr. Bones and me, Mr. Banjo. We wore black socks over our faces with white rings around the eyes and mouth. The point of the scene was to show the inappropriate use of Foster's song, "Old Folks at Home" (performed as a rollicking song rather than a lament). The script for the show has been rewritten, and I am sure the minstrel scene has been dropped, but it's interesting to point out the original script was very attuned to racial issues and the Black characters were treated with great respect. 



Minstrelsy may have led to vaudeville and other stage genres, but the Jim Crow stains persist to this day.



David






How can there be a Stephen Foster story without minstrelsy?  If they are afraid of the history, they should tell a different story.  We can't forget this major aspect of the banjo, least we repeat it (or something similar) in a future form of pop culture entertainment.

jcland - Posted - 02/02/2021:  06:37:34


Excellent article Bill H. I read the entire article twice and saved it to a file for future reference. I must say that the article both decried and praised the events surrounding the history talked about in this article.

As far as you finding the photo offensive, I see absolutely nothing wrong with that. In fact, if we don't see things offensive, how will we ever get to the point of not repeating it. There is a huge major difference between seeing something offensive and trying to eliminate it from history, which you never, ever advocated. I stand with you on that. In fact, I myself can both find this photo offensive and intellectually stimulating at the same time. Never would I try to eliminate if from history.

To All, including myself: What we need to do as a society is to remember both the good and the bad, strive to repeat the good and never, ever repeat the bad. That is how it has to be, but never, ever eliminate something from history because it might offend you personally.

Human history itself is offensive. It is the timeline of human experience, be it good or be it bad. That is how we remember both what is right and what is wrong in human society and those who strive to erase parts they don't like and keep them hidden from others, I would be very suspicious of. We have quite a few examples of that happening through out human history, almost always with a negative outcome.

The Carolina Chocolate Drops expressed it eloquently as is should be.

"It's complicated," multi-instrumentalist Dom Flemons told the Philadelphia Inquirer. "Back in the day, there were black minstrels being imitated by white minstrels masquerading in blackface. And all making fun of every ethnic group. While the minstrel show became an international phenomenon, it gets looked at in a very negative way-which, to a large degree, it should be. There was a lot of shucking and jiving. But at the same time, there's a solid musical and cultural piece of the puzzle that's been left behind, because we put all of it in a box during the civil-rights era, tried to hide it, and said, 'We can't do this thing.' "

And Rhiannon Giddens stated, "What we're striving to put out there is the joyous side of this music — the good side of this time period," she says. "There's a lot of bad stuff, and we're not going to deny that. But you can't throw everything out."

I certainly don't think that anyone who is not Black should stop playing the banjo because it is considered race appropriation!

Where do you think Piedmont style playing came from.

The mixing of music styles is what gave us the music we have today. We all know that as musicians.

That being said, take some time and read about the Carolina Chocolate Drops and their view on this topic.


annarborobserver.com/articles/...lWhHlMEuU

npr.org/2020/01/01/792599454/f...ate-drops

npr.org/templates/story/story....123652457

time.com/5534379/songs-of-our-...c-review/

RB3WREATH - Posted - 02/02/2021:  10:32:44


quote:

Originally posted by Ira Gitlin

quote:

Originally posted by Bill H

The character "JIm Crow" was created by white performer Thomas Rice in 1828. His song and dance became a national sensation. Here is reprint of a 1978 article from American Heritage by historian Robert Toll, about the tradition and impact of this cultural phenomenon.



"Blackface: the Sad History of Minstrel Shows






Thanks for the link. I'm sure almost everyone in this forum is familiar with at least the rough outlines of the history of the minstrel show. We all (?) recognize how it expressed the deplorable racism that was endemic at the time. Let's stipulate that (as the attorneys say),  while we discuss other aspects of this important cultural phenomenon.




Ira it hasn't changed that much just the face of it we have a long way to go







 

Bill H - Posted - 02/02/2021:  11:15:14


My original comment regarding this photo is admittedly in articulate.



After I posted my comment stating that the photo is offensive, I got to thinking and reading a bit, so I thought I'd share this article that was the most interesting thing I found in my Google search ( which are limited and as Joel Points out apt to contain inaccurate info). It is complicated. It's not so much that the photo itself is offensive, it is rather the practice of Jim Crow, the caricatures created by these minstrel performers that have perpetuated negative stereotypes that endure today, and the racism that the photo represents that is offensive in its denial of humanity to a group of people. 

Clifton Hicks - Posted - 02/02/2021:  19:34:03


...



 

Clifton Hicks - Posted - 05/02/2021:  04:54:52


Recently found some decent photos of one:


Edited by - Clifton Hicks on 05/02/2021 05:05:31





 

IMBanjoJim - Posted - 05/02/2021:  07:39:03


A good reminder...



 

banjothumper5 - Posted - 05/02/2021:  07:58:10


He ruined grandmas new tablecloth making that suit!

G Edward Porgie - Posted - 05/02/2021:  13:48:39


I am not so much offended by the racism of the past as I am of the racism of the present. Anyone who denies that racism no longer exists has to be either blind, or more likely, deliberately choosing to wear a blindfold.

staceyz - Posted - 05/02/2021:  13:53:05


Here is the exact same instrument in the photo. A 6 string guitar version of the August Pollman Mandoline. You can even see him playing a C chord in the photo. (Wouldn't it be funny if this was his instrument..?)



banjohangout.org/classified/87083



 

mikehalloran - Posted - 05/03/2021:  00:14:22


I think that TCM's documentary is about as well as this subject can be handled. They show it a few times a week.



TCM Original Production: Blackface and Hollywood - African American Film History - Documentary



I'm certain we can treat our discussions of the history, players, music and instruments with the same level of decency. If so, that's a good thing.



To Joel's point, sensationalizing the past is just as bad as ignoring it.

Oldtimefeeling - Posted - 05/03/2021:  15:51:06


"The Georgia Minstrels" have been mentioned specifically to have been located or based in Macon, Ga.
Though their time frame may have been slightly earlier than 1898. Could be helpful in the search tho.

Clifton Hicks - Posted - 05/05/2021:  04:26:11


quote:

Originally posted by Oldtimefeeling

"The Georgia Minstrels" have been mentioned specifically to have been located or based in Macon, Ga.

Though their time frame may have been slightly earlier than 1898. Could be helpful in the search tho.






There was a "C.B. Hicks' Georgia Minstrels" (aka Hicks-Sawyer Minstrels) who moved to Australia in the 1870s. This photo of band member, Hosea Easton, is from around 1888 when they played in Napier, New Zealand:



 


Edited by - Clifton Hicks on 05/05/2021 04:41:18



 

Joel Hooks - Posted - 05/05/2021:  05:24:01


quote:

Originally posted by Oldtimefeeling

"The Georgia Minstrels" have been mentioned specifically to have been located or based in Macon, Ga.

Though their time frame may have been slightly earlier than 1898. Could be helpful in the search tho.






It has been a while since I have dove into this stuff but it is my understanding that the various groups that used "Georgia Minstrels" (there were several) were not associated with the state of Georgia.



If I recall correctly, the use of "Georgia Minstrels" in some form would indicate that the group was made up, in whole or part, of black members. But the details are foggy.



I know that Horace Weston was a member of the "Georgia Minstrels" and later "Haverly's Georgia Minstrels" which was a group of black musicians and actors.  Weston was born in Connecticut and based out of New York City for most of his career.



This is not to claim that there were not groups called "Georgia Minstrels" that came out of the state of Georgia, just that the most famous or well known groups were not from there and just used the name to sound southern. 



There was a lot of borrowing with minstrelsy.  The shows eventually became so formulaic that if a group would try something new the audience would be unhappy. By the end, it was not uncommon for the end men to tell a joke then the audience would shout back the punchline.

Oldtimefeeling - Posted - 05/05/2021:  11:28:34


quote:

Originally posted by Joel Hooks

quote:

Originally posted by Oldtimefeeling

"The Georgia Minstrels" have been mentioned specifically to have been located or based in Macon, Ga.

Though their time frame may have been slightly earlier than 1898. Could be helpful in the search tho.






It has been a while since I have dove into this stuff but it is my understanding that the various groups that used "Georgia Minstrels" (there were several) were not associated with the state of Georgia.



If I recall correctly, the use of "Georgia Minstrels" in some form would indicate that the group was made up, in whole or part, of black members. But the details are foggy.



I know that Horace Weston was a member of the "Georgia Minstrels" and later "Haverly's Georgia Minstrels" which was a group of black musicians and actors.  Weston was born in Connecticut and based out of New York City for most of his career.



This is not to claim that there were not groups called "Georgia Minstrels" that came out of the state of Georgia, just that the most famous or well known groups were not from there and just used the name to sound southern. 



There was a lot of borrowing with minstrelsy.  The shows eventually became so formulaic that if a group would try something new the audience would be unhappy. By the end, it was not uncommon for the end men to tell a joke then the audience would shout back the punchline.






Thanks for the additional info! I should have clarified I was only speaking of a Georgia Minstrels specifically documented as a troup based in/from Macon, Ga. But yes that could be confusing if trying to search.  I'm not surprised there could be so many and especially so many not from Georgia seeing as they wanted to mimic a lot of southern life scenarios it seems



Did not know about how routine it became tho! That is interesting

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