Birth of an Industry: Blackface Minstrelsy and the Rise of American Animation
Nicholas Sammond is Associate Professor of Cinema Studies at the University of Toronto. He is the author of Babes in Tomorrowland: Walt Disney and the Making of the American Child, 1930-60, and the editor of Steel Chair to the Head: Essays on Professional Wrestling, both also published by Duke University Press.
Conclusion: The “New” Blackface
This chapter frames this retelling of the early history of American animation as part blackface minstrelsy in order to reconsider some of the classic theories of comedy, humor, and laughter. It argues for the significance of race and racism in the seemingly universal concepts of the laughing subject, and in the objects of jokes in the United States. It uses this analysis to discuss why minstrelsy is still practiced today, and why in a supposedly postracial era in the United States the donning of blackface, both professionally and by amateurs, has actually increased. The resurgence of a seemingly inherently comic mode of blackface minstrelsy—the ongoing expression of racial violence through humor—raises important questions about racial formation, the policing of racist acts, and the conflation of fantasies of a world without racism and a world without race.