Wilson Daily Times, 19 January 1935.
An example of the ubiquitous and gratuitous use of blackface in the first half of Wilson’s twentieth-century.
Some of the fine entertainment on offer at Wilson Theatre in 1924.
Wilson Mirror, 19 October 1924.
Lee “Lasses” White was an American entertainer who gained fame in the early 1900s doing minstrel shows and wrote one of the first copyrighted twelve-bar blues, “N*gger Blues.”
Wilson Mirror, 23 December 1924.
“The Mouth-Piece of Mirth and Melody.”
Clippings courtesy of J. Robert Boykin III.
Year-end entertainment in Wilson in 1897 featured a nationally popular minstrel show, Gorton’s — “strictly refined” and “entirely fit from start to finish for a lady audience.” Most importantly, Gorton’s was a white minstrel outfit, not one of the Black companies offering weak knock-offs off Gorton’s reputation. (That boast is so rich it needs to be read slowly. And repeatedly. Yes, Gorton’s did Black music better than Black people did.)
Wilson Advance, 30 December 1897.
Gorton’s Original New Orleans Minstrels, Minstrel Poster Collection, Library of Congress Prints and Posters Division, Washington, D.C.
Who knew that “negro wedding” was a whole subgenre of blackface?
… Me either.
But it was, and quite popular in Wilson County as late as the 1940s.
In 1927, Mrs. R.H. Llewellyn, clever and entertaining, entertained the Rotary Club with a negro wedding and a negro sermon.
Wilson Daily Times, 14 December 1927.
In 1938, Stantonsburg High School’s senior class’ evening of “good clean fun and amusement” included a negro wedding.
Wilson Daily Times, 11 March 1938.
In 1941, Saratoga High School’s Beta Club presented a negro wedding whose finale was a stirring “Dark Town Strutter’s Ball.”
Wilson Daily Times, 26 February 1941.
Participants did not need to make up their own mockeries. Titles of negro wedding plays include “Henpeck at the Hitching Post,” “My Wild Days are Over,” and “The Coontown Wedding.” Characters in Mary Bonham’s “The Kink in Kizzie’s Wedding: A Mock Negro Wedding,” published in 1921, include Lizzie Straight, Pinky Black, Sunshine Franklin, Necessary Dolittle, George Washington Goot, and Uncle Remus. The opening lines: “CAPT. COTTON — ‘Bein’ as Ise de Knight ob de Hoss-shoe, an’ while we’s waitin’ fo’ de bridal paih, we will practice de riding’ gaits.’ ALL GROOMSMEN — ‘Thank-u-doo, obleeged-to-you!’ (They salute the Captain.)” Charming.
These are not black people. Rather, they are white men in blackface. Specifically, the country-novelty duo Mustard and Gravy — Wilson natives and WGTM radio stars Frank Rice and Ernest L. Stokes — in Bandits of El Dorado, a 1949 B western.
The 7 October 1933 edition of the Wilson Daily Times ran this advertisement for a Gala Mid-Nite Show at the Carolina Theatre featuring Moran & Mack, the Two Black Crows, and unidentified “all colored musical and dancing vaudeville acts.”
The Carolina was a segregated theatre with seating for African-Americans available in its balcony. Moran & Mack were a famed blackface minstrel act. If you care to see a snippet of Hypnotized, here you are.