Amos ‘n’ Andy: The Mystic Nights Of The Sea

aWhen I was a child, there was a television show called “Amos ‘n’ Andy.” Considering the way thing were during that time, the only black people we saw on TV were maids, nannies, and Buffon’s; you know the subservient type of “colors” white folks liked so much. This show was a comedy, but these black folks lived like whites – professionals and owned businesses.

However, the NAACP and others decried the show, protested and had it removed from the airways. It is worth mentioning that at the time white folk still dressed in black face until the 1950s, yet the NAACP had no problem with those performances and images! I have spoken about the NAACP and consider them not much better than Messy Jessie and Brother Al. I have asked, and nobody can answer the question; what significant thing has the group done for black people? Other than keep black people passive and quiet!

Moving on: here is the back story of the show that might surprise you:

It was on this day in 1926 that a two-man blackface comedy series “Sam ‘n’ Henry” debuted on Chicago’s WGN radio station. Two years later, after changing its name to “Amos ‘n’ Andy,” the show became one of the most popular radio programs in American history. The show later became one of the first television series to depict black people as something other than maids and servants.

Though the creators and the stars of the radio show, Freeman Gosden, and Charles Carrell, were both white, the characters they played were two black men from the Deep South who moved to Chicago to seek their fortunes. Blackface performances by whites were normal for the time. This was the result of the famous Jim Crow character popular around the Civil War that white actors performed in the “blackface” tradition. Gosden and Carrell, both vaudeville performers, were doing a Chicago comedy act in blackface when an employee at the Chicago Tribune suggested they create a radio show.

When “Sam ‘n’ Henry” debuted, it became an immediate hit. In 1928, Gosden and Carrell took their act to a rival station, the Chicago Daily News’ WMAQ. When they discovered WGN owned the rights to their characters’ names, they simply changed the name. As their new contract gave Gosden and Carrell the right to syndicate the program, the popularity of “Amos ‘n’ Andy” soon exploded. Over the next 22 years, the show would become the highest-rated comedy in radio history, attracting more than 40 million listeners.

By 1951, when “Amos ‘n’ Andy” came to television, changing attitudes about race and concerns about racism had virtually wiped out the practice of blackface. With Alvin Childress and Spencer Williams took over for Gosden and Carrell, the show was the first TV series to feature an all-black cast and the only one of its kind for the next 20 years. This did not stop African American advocacy groups, and eventually the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, from criticizing both the radio and TV versions of “Amos ‘n’ Andy” for promoting racial stereotypes. These protests led to the TV show’s cancellation in 1953.

The final radio broadcast of “Amos ‘n’ Andy” aired on November 25, 1960. Fast forward to the trash we see depicting African Americans in television shows today. Was Amos ‘n’ Andy really a negative upon society? Imagery is very important and, in my opinion, the show should have been praised for showing a people long denied the spotlight represented as professionals in a time of segregation, i.e., separate but equal. The truth of the matter is that this show in large part contributed greatly to removing the horrible practice of “blackface”.

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Could it have been that the society at large did not want the black people to think they could live the American dream? And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

About Thought Provoking Perspectives

Welcome to Thought Provoking Perspectives a blog designed to be a potent source of empowering knowledge to broaden the information base with those who share my passion for the written word and the empowerment of thought. View all posts by Thought Provoking Perspectives

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