'FACEism' and the history behind blackface

Blackface is more than playing a character or putting on a "costume."

Blackface has a sinister legacy that we all should know. So when someone asks "what's wrong with blackface?" this story will help you with the answer.

And we have to warn you, the footage in our story is disturbing - and that's the point.

UCLA's Dr. Tyrone Howard, professor of education and expert on multicultural issues, helps us understand by taking us back to the 1830s when slavery was alive and well, and minstrel shows were the popular form of entertainment.

"The minstrel shows were all about reinforcing black inferiority. And the way that whites, to entertain other whites, would reinforce that was to paint themselves with these black faces."

For 150 years, blackface lived on as one of the most devastating and racist examples of stereotyping.

"They depicted black people as being unable to speak clearly. They depicted black people as being really cowardly. They depicted black people as being uneducated. They depicted black people as being lazy, and it really had no value. And people laughed at these images, and people made fun of these images," Howard said.

You may have heard the name Jim Crow.

And you may already know it's associated with a racist era in our history.

But Jim Crow wasn't a politician or racist leader. He was a fictional character in blackface, created by a white actor pretending to be a slave.

The horribly demeaning character became so popular that when slaves were freed, laws were created to deny African Americans their rights. They named the laws after Jim Crow.

For more on "FACEism," visit faceism.org.
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