The Black and White Minstrel Show

The Black and White Minstrel Show

"The Black and White Minstrel Show" was a British television series that ran from 1958 until 1978 and was a popular stage show. It was a weekly light entertainment and variety show presenting traditional American minstrel and Country songs, as well as show and music hall numbers, usually performed in blackface, and with lavish costumes.


The show was first broadcast on the BBC on June 14 1958. It began as a one-off special featuring the male Mitchell Minstrels (after George Mitchell, the Musical Director) and the female Television Toppers dancers in 1957. It was popular and soon developed into a regular 45 minute show on Saturday evenings, featuring both solo and minstrel pieces (often with extended segueing) as well as "comedy interludes". It was produced by George Inns with George Mitchell.


Audiences regularly exceeded 18 million. The Minstrels also had a theatrical show which ran for 6,477 performances from 1960–1972 and established itself in "The Guinness Book of Records" as the stage show seen by the largest number of people. At this time, the creation had gained considerable international respect and kudos. The show won a Golden Rose at Montreux in 1961 for best light entertainment programme and the first three albums of songs (1960–1962) all did extremely well, the first two being long-running number ones in the British album chart.

While the show started off being broadcast in (genuine) black-and-white, the show was one of the very first to be moved to colour by the BBC in 1967.

Several famous personalities guested on the show, while others started their careers there. Comedian Lenny Henry was one such star, being the first black comedian to appear, in 1975. [ [ Lenny Henry profile] BBC Comedy pages]


The show's premise began to be seen as offensive on account of its portrayal of blacked-up characters behaving in a stereotypical manner. A petition against it was received by the BBC in 1967, [ [ Minstrels founder Mitchell dies] BBC, 29 August 2002. Accessed 2 February 2008.] and since cancellation it has come to be seen more widely as an embarrassment, despite its popularity at the time. [ [ links and lists • The 100 Greatest TV Moments From Hell ] ] [ [ BBC - BBC Four Time Shift - Black and White Minstrel Show Revisited ] ]


The BBC1 TV show was cancelled in 1978 as part of a reduction in variety programming (although by this point the blackface element had been reduced), [ [ BBC NEWS | Entertainment | TV and Radio | Minstrels founder Mitchell dies ] ] but the stage show continued. Having left the Victoria Palace Theatre, where the stage show played from 1962 to 1972, the show toured almost every year to various big city and seaside resort theatres around the UK, including The Futurist in Scarborough, The Festival Hall in Paignton and The Pavilion Theatre in Bournemouth. This continued each summer until 1987, when a final tour of three Butlins resorts (Minehead, Bognor Regis and Barry Island) saw the last official Black and White Minstrel Show on stage.

Cultural impact

"Alternative Roots", an episode of the BBC comedy series "The Goodies", spoofed the popularity of "The Black and White Minstrel Show", suggesting that any programme could double its viewing figures by being performed in blackface, and mentioning that a series of "The Black and White Minstrel Show" had been tried without make up. [cite episode| title = Alternative Roots| episodelink = Alternative Roots| series = The Goodies| serieslink = The Goodies| airdate = 2008-11-01| seriesno = 7| number = 1] In the late 1960s, "Masquerade", a "whiteface" version of the show, had been tried, only to lose viewers.cite web|url=|title=1961|last=Mawer|first=Sharon|date=2007|work=Album Chart History|publisher=The Official UK Charts Company|accessdate=2008-10-05]

When a revival of the "Black And White Minstrel Show" was proposed by fictional television presenter Roger Mellie, Tom states "Television bade good riddance to that racist rubbish decades ago".Fact|date=April 2007


External links

* [ "The Black and White Minstrel Show"] at

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