Black Stereotypes in the Media during the Harlem Renaissance

Topics: Black people, African American, Blues Pages: 3 (1245 words) Published: September 18, 2013
In the last several sessions, we discussed a variety of black stereotypes portrayed in the media during the Harlem Renaissance. During the 1920s, there were specific stereotypes associated with Classic Blues vocal performers-especially black female artists. These stereotypes were based on the “Mammy” figure, which dates back to slavery. Female classic blues artists were portrayed as buxom and “hyper sexualized.” The idea of sexually independent women was considered immoral, so it is of no surprise that the stereotypes were unfair and damaging to the black culture. For further understanding of the common stereotypes, we looked at W. C. Handy’s St. Louis Blues. This short film featured many popular artists of the time, most notably, blues artist Bessie Smith. We discussed both the musical aspects, as well as our initial response to the film. I wrote down several key moments during the viewing of the film. First, I noticed the stereotypes presented in the opening scene, all of which are in reference to black men. In the scene, a group of black men, most of whom were obviously suppose to be working, shooting dice, and speaking in a common vernacular associated with African Americans. Also, they were obsessing over a female character of the light-skinned complexion (this becomes important later). This scene represents quite a few stereotypes about black men: that black men are lazy, not well dressed, and looks and behaves like a buffoon. Other stereotypes are seen in the main male character, Jimmy. Jimmy is an opportunist, who takes advantage of Bessie’s character by stealing her money and running off with the light-skinned woman, who was presented as more desirable. The color caste system became one of the most important features of the film, as we understood the origin of the system: during slavery, mixed offspring had closer access to the house, and, ultimately, more power. Therefore, the idea was that light-skinned blacks were better than dark-skinned blacks....
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