Republican Scare Tactics, Then and Now

Fear is one of more common themes in political advertisements. Consider this political ad from 1949, which was seen in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area:

I think this speaks for itself. It almost makes the Willie Horton ads from the 1988 presidential campaign seem tame.

Note the little girl’s doll:

So… who’s the Republican bogeyman for 2010? This poster was recently (October 2010) seen in Shreveport, Louisiana:

Obama as the bogeyman, 2010.


(Hat tip to for the image.)

NOTE: This picture at the top is from the excellent book, One Shot Harris: The Photographs of Charles “Teenie” Harris. Harris was a photographer who worked for the Pittsburgh Courier, which was one of the nation’s top black newspapers.

The book contains photographs taken by Harris from the 1940s through the 1960s. Black Issues Book Review said this about Harris and the book:

One Shot Harris is pure soul. Though Harris photographed people living in poverty, most of his photos break away from the all-too-familiar images that oftentimes represent blacks during hard times. Instead, Harris focused on local folk–proud at work and at home–along with numerous celebrities to convey cultural pride. He took particular pleasure in highlighting The Hill District, the Pittsburgh neighborhood where many African Americans flocked seeking employment and entertainment.

“What I’d like for readers to take away from this book,” says writer Stanley Crouch, “is that Harris shows that these black communities, regardless of all stereotypes, were as civilized as any community in the entire western world.”

The book contains an essay by noted writer Stanley Crouch, and a biography of Harris by African American photography scholar Deborah Willis. Highly recommended.

Our Gang’s Little Rascals, Racial Stereotypes, and Kids Just Having Fun

Mrs. Allotherpersons loves this video clip, and she insists that I put it on my blog. It’s from the Our Gang/Little Rascals series. I think it’s OK… here it is, take a look and let me add some comments.

As a child, one of my favorite shows was The Little Rascals, also known as Our Gang. As described by Wikipedia,

Our Gang/The Little Rascals… was a series of American comedy short films about the adventures of a group of poor neighborhood children. Created by comedy producer Hal Roach, Our Gang was produced… starting in 1922 as a silent short subject series. Roach changed distributors… in 1927, went to sound in 1929 and continued production until 1938, when he sold the series to MGM. MGM in turn continued producing the comedies until 1944. In the mid-1950s, the 80 Roach-produced shorts with sound were syndicated for television under the title The Little Rascals.

I started watching TV in the early 1960s. The fact that my viewing included Little Rascals shows which were made in the 1930s and 1940s is a testement to the fact that back in the ’60s, there wasn’t a lot of content on network television. (That may be why I never cease to be amazed by the hundreds of TV channels we get today on cable or satellite.)

So I watched The Little Rascals, in all their black and white glory. And I’m not just talking about the film color. The Rascals was unique, in that it featured an integrated cast, and, the black characters were not treated as ridiculous stereotypres.

My favorite character on the show who was a black kid named Stymie. He got a lot of lines, he had good comedic timing, he was a master of facial expressions even as a youngster, and he was something of a leader among his cast of characters. He was funny without being ridiculously silly. (Now Alfalfa-a white character on the show-he was ridiculously silly.)

But The Rascals did sometimes reflect the stereotypes of the day (see the above video), and that’s gotten it in trouble with people who look at the show with today’s sensibilities. As mentioned in Wikipedia,

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Phony or For Real? “Boss Nigger” Movie Trailer

OK, is this Phony or For Real?

It’s for real, folks. Boss Nigger is a 1975 blaxploitation movie that stars former football player Fred Williamson, who also wrote and co-produced the film.

Boss Nigger is the last of a trilogy of films featuring the character “Nigger Charley,” a runaway slave played by Williamson. Character actor D’urville Martin also appeared in all three films as Amos, a fellow ex-slave and comic sidekick. After killing a brutal slave master on his plantation, Charley heads to the Old West to live as a free man.

The first film of the trilogy, The Legend of Nigger Charley, was released in 1972, at the start of the blaxploitation craze. According to Wikipedia, Legend was one of Paramount Studio’s highest-grossing movies of 1972. The second movie in the series was The Soul of Nigger Charley.

Movie poster for The Legend of Nigger Charley

In Boss Nigger, Charley and Amos are bounty hunters who come upon a small town in need of a sheriff. The town is also having a problem with a band of outlaws led by Jed Clayton, a villain who’s wronged Charley in the past. After a number of events, including the death of a young black woman at the hands of white murderers, there’s a showdown that features the death of the bad guy in slow-motion glory.

The dialogue in the trailer seems silly, and that was partly intentional. The Nigger movies were a parody of classic and not-so-classic Westerns, but also, they were typical 1970s blaxploitation fare, rife with comical put-downs of stereotypical white characters.

The word “nigger” is used freely, for both its shock value and just as important, its mock value. In this context, the word is used to make fun of both white folk’s use of the word, but black folks’ use of the word too.

But when looked at through the prism of today’s values, the use of what is now called the N word is either absurdly funny or outrageously offensive, depending on your mindset. It was movies like these that led to a backlash against the N word-it would be politically impossible to make this kind of movie today. (There are actually videos on the Internet featuring Obama that use the Boss Nigger theme song, and I thought, for one-tenth of a second, about putting it on this blog entry. But the idea was just too radioactive for me.)

Boss Nigger was released in some areas under the title The Boss or The Black Bounty Killer. In 2008, the movie was released in DVD under the titled Boss.