The downloadable electronic book Primetime Blues by Donald Bogle chronicles the history of African-American entertainers from the Golden Years of Radio to modern day cable TV. The author believes early male performers were stereotyped as clueless, uneducated, lazy characters. Female characters were depicted as “motherly” figures with no individuality, no back story. Bogle contends these stereotypes were carried forward through time, and are still present today to a certain extent.
Furthermore, Black actors were more often than not cast as criminals, while White actors were seen as heroes. Sponsors shied away from shows that addressed the real concerns of the African-American – even though these were similar to Caucasians. So producers shied away, too. Well-educated Black actors – many who had attended prominent schools – were unable to find jobs to showcase their acting ability. African-American shows were few and far between. Critics complained that those that were broadcast failed to address the real problems of Black America.
This is an interesting book which approaches the entertainment industry from a different angle. It provides a lot of food for thought. Besides the historical connotation, it takes you on a nostalgic trip through the great shows of yesteryear. It reminds us that African-Americans have played a very important role in the entertainment industry.
Interested in more staff picks? Check out what the Greenwich Library staff recommends.