Thinking about Jimmy Crow

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Thinking about Jimmy Crow

Postby Nick Jackson » 08 Aug 2007, 17:35

I've been thinking about Jimmy Crow. I've just been to see Prof Ronald Codman performing at the Maritime Museum and I was struck by his Jim Crow – brown, not flat black as many of us depict him.

I'm about to carve a new Jim Crow and I was going to ask on here if anyone has pictured of theirs as I'm wondering exactly how to paint him. But first I did a little Internet research and discovered the following:

Taken from: http://www.swisseduc.ch/english/resourc ... .html#name

"Come listen all you galls and boys,
I'm going to sing a little song,
My name is Jim Crow.
Weel about and turn about and do jis so,
Eb'ry time I weel about I jump Jim Crow."

These words are from the song, "Jim Crow," as it appeared in sheet music written by Thomas Dartmouth "Daddy" Rice… in 1828 Rice appeared on stage as "Jim Crow" -- an exaggerated, highly stereotypical Black character.

Rice, a White man, was one of the first performers to wear blackface makeup -- his skin was darkened with burnt cork. His Jim Crow song-and-dance routine was an astounding success that took him from Louisville to Cincinnati to Pittsburg to Philadelphia and finally to New York in 1832…White audiences were receptive to the portrayals of Blacks as singing, dancing, grinning fools.

By 1838, the term "Jim Crow" was being used as a collective racial epithet for Blacks, not as offensive as nigger, but as offensive as coon or darkie… the popularity of minstrel shows aided the spread of Jim Crow as a racial slur.

Rice, and his imitators, by their stereotypical depictions of Blacks, helped to popularize the belief that Blacks were lazy, stupid, inherently less human, and unworthy of integration... Ironically, years later when Blacks replaced White minstrels, the Blacks also "blackened" their faces, thereby pretending to be Whites pretending to be Blacks.

Daddy Rice, the original Jim Crow, became rich and famous because of his skills as a minstrel. However, he lived an extravagant lifestyle, and when he died in New York on September 19, 1860, he was in poverty.


My current, admittedly rather crude, Jim Crow:
Image

Now I've never intended my Jim Crow routine to be a racial slur. In fact, the kids love him as he talks directly to them more than any other character. But since reading the above I'm having second thoughts about including him at all. And if I do, how should I depict him and, given the historical background, should I be changing his name? Having said that, we use the word Squaw to depict an American Indian's wife yet, literally translated, it is about the most misogynistic term one can use for a woman – then and now.

Thoughts please.
Last edited by Nick Jackson on 09 Aug 2007, 09:05, edited 2 times in total.
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Postby johnstoate » 08 Aug 2007, 18:39

'Lo Nick, I tried to start a discussion on this very subject a while ago. I have since come to the opinion that the inclusion of Jim Crow is argueably essential in our 'multi-cultural' society, He represents the 'racial minority', and, of course, is treated equally by Punch!! - why should it be a racist slur to include representatives of 'Other cultures' in the show? - And, by the same token, is it not racist to have an entirely 'white' cast? - I sometimes include 'Mr Singh' in my show, and the only comment I have ever had about it was at a 'mela', where a chap in a turban came over and said how nice it was to see his culture represented in my show!! - Which is not to say that I would risk J.C. in Moss Side! :roll: It comes down to personal preference, and reading one's audience. :)
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Postby lesclarke » 08 Aug 2007, 22:18

I've thought about introducing a black or other non-white character, and I'm sure I will get round to it. My simplistic interpretation of the history of black characters in the show is that they have originally reflected the society at the time, but then to some extent lagged behind society and became rather anachronistic.
..as of course is the whole show!

It does need some consideration for obvious reasons, forget PC, long before that came along it could already be a 'touchy subject'. And there are mischief makers out there, looking to put a bad spin on anything.The problem is that once you start thinking about it too much there is a danger of over-analizing the whole thing. It doesn't have to be a touchy subject though if no offence is intended or caused.

I've heard John mention the reaction he has had to his Mr Singh, and it begs the question what would black, either of West Indian origin or African origin children or adults make of a traditional black Jim Crow puppet singing a traditional song and business with the crocodile.
I'm sure profs out there are still doing this type of scene, I expect it is accepted as innocent fun.

Stereotypes are the stock in trade of drama, and vital in such a simple dramatic form as a glove puppet show.

Just watched a fantastic episode of Rising Damp, and laughed out loud!
The black character Philip (Don Warrington) cleverly twists the sterotype right around and is the only self confident, well balanced, clear thinking character.

I may in the future drop my Scottish Doctor and have a non-white Doctor, swapping one sterotype for another.
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Postby Tony James » 09 Aug 2007, 01:32

How strange. My Tickner Black Man is chocolate brown and it never crossed my mind he should be anything else. I mix two shades of brown just to take the mahogany look off his face,

A touch of red mixed in for the cheeks and highlights I find lifts the appearance. Also strangely, Fred painted his eyes blue and I've kept to this. Lining is done in black.

His dress has always been what I think of as a Distinguished Foreigner character. You can see a picture of a Tickner Black man in George Speaight's book. same page as the Tickner Devil David was talking about the other day.

As a consequence he's educated and not stupid so the old 'That bell is a concertina' 'stop playing that constant screamer' and similar exchanges have never been in my show.

Originally he had a brief Black & White Minstrel aspect to his one and only appearance but that dropped out yonks years ago.

For me, his real purpose has only ever been to make up the numbers for the counting routine. he's rather under utilised I suppose.
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Postby Nick Jackson » 09 Aug 2007, 09:20

Perhaps I didn't express myself very well.

I actually agree with everything John, Les and Tony say.

My Jim Crow and Joey are the two characters who never fall under Punch's stick. And unlike Tony's, he does far more than "make up the numbers". In fact, he takes almost a quarter of the show. He's quite a plush character – purple velvet with patterned waistcoat and matching trousers (practical legs). Having proved he can sing better than Punch, he tries to have a sleep "because I didn't get to bed last night until a very early hour this morning" and is interrupted by spider, monkey, ghost, devil, crocodile – and that's to say nothing of his legs which "keep following me about". I always thought Jack Codman (from whom I copies this) was the only person who did this routine until I saw Ronnie Codman doing it yesterday – had me in stitches.

No, my point is, should we still call him Jim Crow, given the origins of his name (although mine is mostly just called Jimmy) and should we paint him the way so many of us do. Tony appears to paint his in quite a different way.

And the reason I'm spending so much time on here is that the kitchen ceiling needs painting
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Postby James » 09 Aug 2007, 15:08

Glyn Edwards uses a black Doctor.

Ron Codman's routine with the black man is superb, far better than any others I have seen. I'm surprised you hadn't seen it before Nick being local. The puppet itself is also excellent, with nice practical legs. Must dog out the video I have of the show.

Good to hear he is back performing after his stroke a few years back, although I don't know how much longer he'll be working. He isn't young. If anyone else gets a chance to see him work I would urge them to make every effort to. Drop tools, turn down work and take a day trip to Liverpool (just try and avoid the roadworks).

All together now....di-ne-ne-ne-ne-ne-ne-ne di-ne-ne-ne-ne-ne-ne-ne Batman!
Still haven't had my copy of the Evening Star, the delivery service is terrible!
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Postby Nick Jackson » 09 Aug 2007, 16:06

James wrote: Ron Codman's routine with the black man is superb..."
It was a very truncated version but the whole show was only about 20 minutes – I suspect that is because he was working in the museum.

James wrote: I have seen. I'm surprised you hadn't seen it before Nick being local.

Ah but I've only been local for a couple of years and, as you point out, he had some time out following illness.

James wrote:I don't know how much longer he'll be working. He isn't young.

But you know what they say: "The Codmans never retire – they just move from one box to the next".

During Herbert Codman's final illness, Jack had to make a TV appearance in his place. Herbert sat up in bed, watching his son, and said: "Now I know I can leave my dolls in safe hands". He died that evening.
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Postby James » 09 Aug 2007, 16:07

Yes, the museum shows do tend to be short, but it seems to work very well. Was it the open topped velvet covered booth?
Still haven't had my copy of the Evening Star, the delivery service is terrible!
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Postby David Wilde » 09 Aug 2007, 21:05

When are you introducing Batman James!

Yes Tony have seen that Blackman befor he's in my suitcase!
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Postby mrmarmalade » 12 Aug 2007, 20:15

Supreme produced a Snake and Snake Charmer. I only used them once or twice, did use the snake on its own and I still have them
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Postby James » 13 Aug 2007, 18:41

Paul Jackson and David Wilde (and others Im sure as well) both have excellent Bryan Clarke shanke charmer puppets.
Still haven't had my copy of the Evening Star, the delivery service is terrible!
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Postby David Wilde » 13 Aug 2007, 20:15

Dont think I have a SHANKE charmer puppet James I will have to recheck!

However I do have a rather nice snake charmer,maybe Ill get my snake to rise for you one day!
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Postby Nick Jackson » 13 Aug 2007, 20:53

David Wilde wrote:maybe Ill get my snake to rise for you one day!
Now that's what I call a show!!!!
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Postby David Wilde » 13 Aug 2007, 20:56

I know what I wrote,whats wrong with that!
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Postby johnstoate » 13 Aug 2007, 21:13

Rien, mais c'est plus de double entendre, mon ami! :roll:
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