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A History of Blackface and Minstrel Shows at Puget Sound

This digital teaching collection focuses on a history of blackface and minstrel shows at the University of Puget Sound.

A History of Blackface & Minstrel Shows at Puget Sound

Collage of images and text including photo of a man in blackface at a piano.

The minstrel show, in which white performers blackened their faces and spoke in exaggerated African American vernacular, traded in stereotypes of blacks to entertain white audiences. Although no one is certain who first performed in blackface, Thomas D. Rice, professionally known as Daddy Rice, is credited as the father of American minstrelsy. Rice, an actor born on the lower east side of Manhattan, New York, created the popular Jim Crow character, namesake of a series of laws enforcing segregation in the South.

To read the complete essay, visit the Overview Essay tab of this guide.

How to Use this Digital Teaching Collection

There are many components of this Digital Teaching Collection for you to explore!

  1. The Gallery: Browse the gallery of images below to get a glimpse of our digital source set. Click on the image to be taken to a digital database where you'll find a larger version of the object, more details about it, and be able to download a copy to use for research.
  2. Overview Essay: Want to understand how these archival items work together? Read our overview essay to better understand the greater context of the objects and the histories that surround them. 
  3. List of Sources: Visit the list of primary sources to read descriptive text that our librarians have written. These descriptions will help you better understand the object and will jumpstart your research. Click on the image to be taken to a digital database where you'll find a larger version of the object, more details about it, and be able to download a copy to use for research.
  4. Teaching Guide: These collections have been designed with students and educators in mind. Visit our Teaching Guide to find discussion questions, activity ideas, and complete lesson plans for K-12 and undergraduate audiences. 
  5. Additional Resources: The search for primary sources does not stop with one institution! We've listed other digital collections and repositories that have archival sources relevant to this topic as well as tips for continuing your research.

The Gallery

In this rotating gallery, you'll get a glimpse of some the items from this digital teaching collection. Click on the image to be taken to a digital database where you'll find a larger version of the object, more details about it, and be able to download a copy to use for research. To see the entire set of sources, visit the List of Sources

The Gallery

Typed article in the university newspaper.

"Sixth Avenue Minstrels Give Show," The Trail, December 4, 1925, pg. 1

The Sixth Avenue Business Men's Club put on a minstrel show at the Jason Lee Auditorium in Tacoma, Washington. This article was published in the December 4, 1925, issue of The Trail, the student newspaper at the University of Puget Sound.

Typed page of a production script.

"Sho-Nuff" production script, 1949

This is the production script for the minstrel show, “Sho’ Nuff,” which was performed on campus at the University of Puget Sound in 1949. 

Black & white photo of 5 women in blackface.

Photograph, Homecoming Sorority Float, October 25, 1952

This image is of a float decorated by a University of Puget Sound sorority for the 1952 Homecoming parade in downtown Tacoma, Washington. The Homecoming theme that year was “Political Stew in ‘52.”

Typed article in the university newspaper.

“Blackface concern reemerges...,” and “Blackface Still Present,” The Trail, October 10, 2003, pgs 1-2 and 5-7

These articles from the The Trail, the student newspaper at the University of Puget Sound, relate to flyers posted on campus for the Infinite Monkeys Theatre Festival. One of the flyers showed a monkey in blackface, posing in the traditional Uncle Sam pose, with the caption reading “We Want You!” 

Seal of National Endowment for the HumanitiersThis digital teaching collection has been made possible in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Democracy demands wisdom.  Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this digital collection do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.