Al Jolson Battles Black Discrimnination, 1927
AL JOLSON, Movie Star
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Al Jolson has been called “the king of blackface” performers, a theatrical convention since the mid-19th century. With his dynamic style of singing black music, such as jazz and blues, he became widely successful by extracting African-American music and popularizing it for white American audiences who were otherwise not receptive to the originators. Despite his promotion and perpetuation of black stereotypes, his work was sometimes well-regarded by black publications and he has sometimes been credited for fighting against black discrimination on Broadway as early as 1911. In an essay written in the 21st century, Tim Gioia of the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia remarked, “If blackface has its shameful poster boy, it is Al Jolson”, showcasing Jolson’s complex legacy in American society….
…Al Jolson was born as Asa Yoelson (Yiddish: אַסאַ יואלסאָן) in the Jewish village of Srednike (Yiddish: סרעדניק) now known as Seredžius, near Kaunas in Lithuania, part of the Russian Empire. He was the fifth and youngest child….