By Julia Lee
It used to be the age of Jim Crow, riddled with racial violence and unrest. yet on the earth of Our Gang, black and white kids fortunately performed and made mischief jointly. They even had their very own black and white model of the KKK, the Cluck Cluck Klams—and the general public enjoyed it.
The tale of race and Our Gang, or The Little Rascals, is rife with the contradictions and aspirations of the sharply conflicted, altering American society that used to be its theater. Exposing those connections for the 1st time, Julia Lee indicates us how a lot this sequence, from the 1st silent shorts in 1922 to its tv revival within the Nineteen Fifties, finds approximately black and white American culture—on each side of the silver monitor. behind the curtain, we discover unconventional males like Hal Roach and his gag writers, whose Rascals tapped into strong American myths approximately race and adolescence. We meet the 4 black stars of the series—Ernie “Sunshine Sammy” Morrison, Allen “Farina” Hoskins, Matthew “Stymie” Beard, and Billie “Buckwheat” Thomas—the gang in the Gang, whose own histories Lee pursues in the course of the passing years and moving political landscape.
In their checkered lives, and within the tumultuous lifetime of the sequence, we find an unexplored tale of the USA, the messy, multiracial state that present in Our Gang a comic book avatar, a slapstick model of democracy itself.
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Extra resources for Our Gang: A Racial History of The Little Rascals
We do know that Roach already had a little boy under contract, an eight-year-old African American actor named “Sunshine Sammy” who had an impish nose and radiant smile. 7 In the distance, the Mississippi River angled through the city, navigated by ferries and riverboats that deposited passengers, cotton bales, and sugar barrels on the Canal Street wharf. Morrison Sr. was reportedly lured west to work in the household of E. L. 8 The son of Irish immigrants, Doheny was a failed miner and prospector when he landed in Los Angeles, virtually broke, in 1891.
Roach always believed that great comedy came from imitating children. Charlie Chaplin’s careening around the corner with a leg up was the act of a child. Hitting himself in the back of the head with his cane and then spinning around to see whodunit was the act of a child. 76 The whole atmosphere of Los Angeles encouraged such freedom. . their day-to-day working environment was more open, free, and egalitarian than it would ever be again. ”77 Roach happily settled into his new life. In 1915, he married Marguerite Nichols, an actress.
66 Ernie was torn between two worlds. He was a ragged but endearing pickaninny to white audiences, a prince and “race star” to black. These worlds were separated by what Du Bois famously called the “veil,” a color line so vast that it split black consciousness in two. ”67 As a star and celebrity, he was already accustomed to being watched. But as a black child in a white industry, he must have been particularly conscious of his racial difference. He knew that white viewers saw him as a representation of the Negro first, an American second (if at all).