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In Hollywood's Golden Age, studios not only anglicized the names of actors but also expected them to downplay their ethnic origins. Fast forward to modern days, and many actors today are bi-racial but still pass for white. With her fair skin, green eyes, and flowing hair, actress Fredi Washington possessed all the traits needed to pass for white.

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In real life, Washington refused to deny her heritage, advocating for blacks in entertainment. Married for a time to black trombonist Lawrence Brown, the only time Washington reportedly passed for white is to buy snacks from the establishments that refused to serve her husband and his bandmates because of their skin color. Instead, she was born in India to an Indian mother and an Anglo father.

Rather than disown her mother, Oberon passed her parent off as a servant.

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When the actress visited Tasmania later in life, the press hounded her for details about her upbringing, forcing her to admit that she wasn't born there. Still, Oberon did not confess to being Indian.

Why I Collect Racist Objects - Jim Crow Museum - Ferris State University

The documentary "The Trouble with Merle" examines Oberon's deceit about her origins. Channing said she never felt ashamed of her black roots.


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Rather, she believed her black ancestry made her a good performer because of the common stereotype about blacks being naturals at singing and dancing. He has Irish and Mexican ancestry and speaks Spanish fluently. Unlike Anthony Quinn, who was also half-Mexican and played characters of various ethnic backgrounds, Gavin consistently played white characters during his tenure in Hollywood.

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But some white families view these objects as keepsakes, passed down through generations as relics of the past. More than a century after the heyday of minstrel shows and the peak production of racist objects, some Americans are still learning about the how these cultural products — viewed as forms of entertainment and decorations during the Jim Crow era — dehumanize black people.

This year, February — a month usually set aside for celebrating the achievements of African-Americans — was dominated by a national reckoning with blackface and a series of apologies for racist behavior. Ralph S. Northam, the governor of Virginia, first apologized for appearing in a photo on his yearbook page that shows a man in blackface standing next to a man in a Ku Klux Klan robe, and then he denied appearing in the photo at all.

The governor later admitted to putting shoe polish on his face to dress up as Michael Jackson.

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Both men are still in office. Conversations about racist controversies, in politics or fashion, are often framed in terms of how they are offensive to black people, but that leaves out a crucial issue, according to Chico Colvard, the director of a new documentary about the history of racist objects.

Colvard said. Racist objects were originally used as propaganda tools to spread falsehoods about the Civil War. Their production spiked in the s, said Rhae Lynn Barnes, an assistant professor of American cultural history at Princeton University. Barnes said. While blackface, a signature of minstrel shows, was often performed in public by white men to mock African-Americans, black figurines were found in homes, according to Dr.

Mammy miniatures — jars, salt and pepper shakers, kitchen bells — show a black woman with exaggerated lips in a red-and-white gown and a matching head scarf. Lawn jockeys depict hunched-over black men holding lanterns.

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His partner asks him to grab a condom from her bedside table, and he finds one stashed in a mammy cookie jar. She gets defensive and asks Dev why he waited until after having sex with her to comment on the object. But sites like eBay led to lower price points. Pilgrim said.