Cooning is a verb derived from the word coon.  A coon was/is a person of african decent whose sole purpose was/is to entertain white people. These ‘coons’ started out as wearing black face, characterized by having big eyes and painting big red lips on their face. These people would tap dance, play instruments and sing.


Modern day coons are blacks who play stereotypical roles black Politicians, sport figures and entertainers that promote ignorance.


Cooning is someone is acting like a ‘coon’.

(a is singing and dancing in public with white people watching)



Originating from the music world during the late 1790’s-1950’s, the word “minstrel” was a term used in the Middle Ages for musicians who would go out and sing songs for the common people. By imitating forms of dance, song, and joke telling in imitated dialect of Africans, plantation owners would mock the actions of their enslaved Africans. Some would go as far as to dress up in the ragged clothing of their enslaved Africans. The entire purpose of these Minstrel Shows was to degrade and belittle the African American race. In the 1840’s things began to get more dramatic with the Minstrel Show “business”. White people started performing these shows for audiences. With blackened faces formed by placing burnt cork, shoe polish, or grease paint, these performers would act out songs and dances of that of the enslaved Africans.


The images of blackface were degrading, portraying African Americans having exaggerated features such as enormous red, pink, or white lips, bulging eyes, enormous butts, and big feet (similar to a clown). Many times to accompany them in their acts, there would be the use of a banjo or some other instrument for musical use during performances. The performers depicted African Americans as lazy, ignorant, superstitious, and happy. They made it seem as if enslaved African Americans enjoyed being enslaved, serving their masters and so on. After the Civil War, Minstrel Shows grew in popularity as African Americans began to perform in the shows.


These Minstrel Shows were the first shows of exposure that African Americans had as professionals on stage. African Americans became popular minstrel show performers during the 20th century. Two of the most popular minstrel performers were Tambo, (often seen with a tambourine) and Bones (often seen with wooden rhythm clackers). They were loved dearly by their audiences because of their humorous but ignorant ways. Their ignorance was shown in different ways by purposefully butchering the English language and making their bodies move in awkward ways. Ironically, such displays of ignorance were necessary factors to the success of their shows and careers.


Sound fimiliar???


Many believe that today‚ corporate entertainment industry carries on the legacy of the minstrel show. Today’s New Millennium Minstrel Show involves newly developed, more covert and nuanced, and severely psychologically and socially damaging characters. These stereotypical characters portray blacks in the historical ways of old minstrel shows but now also portray Africans as pimps and hoes, criminals and killers, gangsters, financially irresponsible and materialistic. Unfortunately, pimps, bitches, hoes, killers, and ‚ gangsters‚ have become the most popular coons in the modern day minstrel show. Lets reclaim our image and stop cooning.


The following list of books, and films provide an excellent starting place for learning.


Additional Educational Resources


Black Magic: White Hollywood and African American Culture

By Krin Gabbard


Inside the Minstrel Mask: readings in the nineteenth-century blackface minstrelsy, Edited By Annemarie Bean, Brooks McNamara and James Vernon Hatch


Men in Blackface: True Stories of the Minstrel Show

By Seymour Stark


Behind the Burnt Cork Mask: Early Blackface Minstrelsy and Antebellum American Popular Culture

By William J. Mahar


Raising Cain: Blackface Performance from Jim Crow to Hip Hop

By W. T. Lhamon

The American Directory of Certified “Uncle Toms”

By Council on Black Internal Affairs


White on Black: images of Africa and Blacks in Western popular culture

By Jan P.Nederveen Pieterse


Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies, and Bucks: An Interpretive History of Blacks in American Films

By Donald Bogle





Bamboozled, Directed by Spike Lee


Ethnic Notions, Directed by Marlon Riggs


Black Is, Black Aint, Directed by Christiane Badgley


Classified X, Mevin Van Peoples


 Comrade Clothing Inc.


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