What Fresh Hell Is This?

February 12, 2009

Lincoln's Birthday

As we all know, Abraham Lincoln as born 200 years ago today. In some states, his birthday is a legal holiday while other states have folded it into "President's Day." In one way or another, Lincoln's Birthday has been celebrated for decades.

The man who was President of the United States during the Civil War (a war fought on the issue of slavery) was born today and today the current President of the United States is an African-American.

We've come a long way. And in more ways than you might think. Take a look:

This is from 1942. That's only 67 years ago. The plot for this major motion picture is as follows. Jim Hardy (played by Bing Crosby) owns an inn in rural Connecticut and he only opens it up a few times a year - on holidays, hence the name "Holiday Inn." In the course of the movie, he's fallen in love with a singer named Linda Mason (played by Marjorie Reynolds). However, Jim's best friend Ted Hanover (played by Fred Astaire) also has his eye on Linda.

So Jim has to hide Linda from Ted. And in this scene his great idea is to hide her under black face makeup.

This is Marjorie Reynolds without the black face makeup:

And here she is in black face:

Just as important, take a look at the other details of the show. ALL the wait staff are "black." I put the word on quotation marks because it looks to me like the staff is also in black face.

The musicians, while actually black (again, as far as I can tell), don't seem too thrilled to be accompanying Der Bingle, however. I wonder why.

Remember, this was only 67 years ago. We should never forget that within the lifetimes of our parents or at least our grandparents that this was considered to be an acceptable form of main stream entertainment.

Happy Lincoln's Birthday everybody!


Jennifer said...

Holy Cow. The crazy thing is, I used to love old movies when I was a kid and I remember this movie, just not this scene. I remember actually loving this movie and often look for it around Christmas time, but I've never seen it again. I can't believe my young self (I was probably under 12) didn't process that as really offensive. Times have changed so much.

HenryJackson said...

Here is some info on Lincoln and slavery:


Bram Reichbaum said...

Let me tell you what. I still think it's acceptable. It's just that good.

Our two protagonists are obviously in a sticky situation, and their decisions were more a function of self-preservation than enjoying blackface. Furthermore, given the images are ugly and evocative, that was one of the most deep and evocative musical remembrances I've ever heard. I think they did honorably by the American minority, at least in this clip.

pascaceleste said...

Did honorably by the American minority? Geesh, so glad I attended a B-PEP meeting and watched the NAACP 100 yr celebration yesterday with Jennifer Hudson singing to Muhammad Ali and not thinking much about A-bra-ham saving us darkies. Having talent and some brains makes these kinds of things even more offensive. It is about entertainment and not the uplift of humanity...that is perverse.

Dayvoe said...


I think my friend Bram was being facetious.

jack said...

Yes, we have come a very long way. However, there still is a lot of racism going on today. With sites like 99problems.org and blackplanet.com/99ProblemsDotorg, people now can voice their opinions on just about anything dealing with problems in the community or life. This "blackface" would not fly nowadays.