Note: This object depicts a person wearing 'black face' and a derogatory depiction of a particular cultural group. Such activities are not condoned by Museums Victoria which considers them to be racist. Historical distance and context does not excuse or erase this fact.
Theatre programme for 'The Black and White Minstrel Show' shown at Tivoli Theatre in Melbourne. This musical was performed in Melbourne on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and holidays for 239 performances in 1962, offering matinee shows at 2pm and evening shows at 8.15pm. The musical was based on a BBC TV series of the same name that won various awards, including the 1961 Golden Rose of Monteux and the International Press Critics Award. It was brought to Australia by Tivoli Circuit Australia Pty Ltd, in association with Aztec Services Pty Ltd and Robert Luff of London.
Soft cover programme book comprising 33 pages, including front and back cover. It is held together with two side staples. The back and front cover are coloured; its interior pages are black and white. The front cover has a picture of a black minstrel's face with white lips, wearing white gloves and a top hat. The back cover has an full-page advertisement for the Cornelius brand of fur clothing. The programme contains half programme information and half advertisements.
This programme has historical significance due to its representation of black minstrels in Australia during the early 1960s, which in part points towards minstrelsy geographic reach and popularity for well over a century, as well as Australia acceptance of it.
Minstrelsy originated in the USA during the 1830s as a popular form of entertainment. White or black people (most commonly white people) would paint their faces black and through performance, present their black characters as lazy, comical and happy. Minstrelsy continued as a form of entertainment, principally in western countries, until the second half of the 20th century. Its content changed over time to reflect social happens, such as the Abolishment Movement, the American Civil War and increased immigration to the USA. A real decline of minstrel shows occurred in the 1960s, when social movements (such as Black Power) for civil rights, race equality and political power gained momentum. The stereotype of African American culture and history developed by minstrelsy has prevailed to the present day.
Melbourne hosted the Black and White Minstrel Show during 1962, which was based on a UK BBC TV series that continued into the 1970s. Australia during the early-mid 1960s was talking about the USA Civil Rights Movement; however, it wasn't until the late 1960s, early 1970s when Australia began to make real change to its own civil rights laws governing Aboriginal peoples. Up until this time, it was quite acceptable to represent Aboriginal people in a comparable way to that of the minstrels of the USA, although their histories and happenings were completely separate. The legacy of the black minstrels continues in Australia today. For instance, in 2009, Hey Hey It's Saturday's Red Faces show hosted a comic skit called the Jackson Jive. Its participants danced around with their faces painted black, wearing fuzzy black wigs on their head and drew laughter from audience members.
Place & Date of Event
Text, front cover: London's Fastest & Most Spectacular Musical / The Black and White Minstrel Show / Tivoli
Type of item
Overall Dimensions - Closed
136 mm (Width), 2 mm (Depth), 225 mm (Height)
Mahar, William J. (1998) Behind the Burnt Cork Mask: Early Blackface Minstrelsy and Antebellum American Popular Culture by University of Illinois Press. Toll, Robert C. (1974), Blacking Up: The Minstrel Show in Nineteenth-century America, New York: Oxford University Press. Jackson, Ronald L., II (2006), Scripting the Black Masculine Body: Identity, Discourse, and Racial Politics in Popular Media, Albany: State University of New York Foley, Gary (2001) Black Power in Redfern 1968-1972. [Link 1] 5 October.