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Black music hall stars Scott and Whaley perform stereotypical minstrel routines in blackface in this 1937 touring revue.
Popular music hall stars Harry Scott and Eddie Whaley perform formulaic, stereotypical blackface routines in this 1930s touring revue. They had gained national popularity in the long-running radio show Kentucky Minstrels, and their 1934 appearance in a film of the same name made them two of the earliest black performers in British cinema. Although the blackface tradition is now considered racist, this form of entertainment remained popular with British audiences well into the 1970s.
Blackface minstrelsy was a popular form of entertainment based on demeaning caricatures of African-Americans. Both white and black artists would apply burnt cork to their faces and perform exaggerated and racist notions of 'plantation life'. Commonly, black entertainers could not appear before white American audiences unless they were in blackface. Minstrelsy arrived in Britain in 1848 when Master Juba and the Ethiopian Serenaders performed at a host of venues including Buckingham Palace. Scott and Whaley first appeared on the British stage in 1909; neither of them returned to the USA and both would assume British citizenship.