JJ 07/61: The BBC and the Golden Rose

Stanley Dance had a topical paragraph on minstrelsy in his Lightly & Politely column 60 years ago. First published in Jazz Journal July 1961

Scene from the BBC's Black and White Minstrel Show

An American trade paper called “The Cash Box” carries this interesting item in its issue dated June 10th:

“Britain took first prize at the Inter­national TV Festival at Montreux, Switzerland, this week. The BBC’s ‘Black and White Minstrel Show’ won the Golden Rose Trophy and more than £800 in prize money.”

That certainly must make us all feel very proud to be British! Here’s our very own broadcasting corporation, famous for its good taste and discretion, hawking its bloody minstrel shows around the Continent and copping prize money therewith! Let us just hope that the £800 goes back in a palatable form to the poor, suffering listeners.

We seem to remember some kind of argument going on in “The Melody Maker” a while back about minstrel shows. There are always those who want to retain them as part of tradition. Nothing patronizing, you understand, but just wholesome fun.

It happened this last spring that a Connecticut branch of the NAACP in­stituted a campaign against minstrel shows, with a view to stopping prepara­tions for those often staged by schools and churches in fund-raising drives. The organization said, in a widely circulated letter, that such shows “tend to keep alive the once prevalent image of the Negro as a subservient, indolent and socially unadaptable buffoon.”

“If the blackface minstrel show is an American tradition,” the letter added, “it is one that should be abolished. Any tradition which keeps alive the mali­cious stereotyping of any group and causes hurt feelings and bitterness should be done away with.”

In matters of this kind, we should expect the BBC to lead, and not to trail a long way behind. Now that it has secured the Golden Rose Trophy (and £800), we trust the minstrel company and the producers of its shows will be quietly liquidated.