THE ADVENTURES OF AMOS 'N' ANDY by Melvin Patrick Ely

THE ADVENTURES OF AMOS 'N' ANDY

A Social History of an American Phenomenon

KIRKUS REVIEW

 To Ely (African-American Studies & Southern History/Yale), Amos 'n' Andy, the first radio comedy series to portray an all- black world, provides a ``small but clear window which, like all windows, reveals more and more as one draws closer to it.'' Here, Ely looks closely at the changing responses of both blacks and whites to Amos 'n' Andy and examines what they reveal about the evolution of racial attitudes during the decades from the 1920's, when the series first aired, to the 50's, when it was transplanted to network TV. Born too late to experience the phenomenon except through TV reruns in the 1950's and 60's, Ely nevertheless writes knowingly of Amos 'n' Andy, having pored over hundreds of old scripts, newspaper clippings and fan letters. He looks at its roots in the minstrel shows in which its white writers (and radio performers) Charles Correll and Freeman Gosden learned their trade, and he examines how it won the hearts of millions and created dismay and antagonism in the minds of many. Although it had a huge following among both blacks and whites, thoughtful blacks were always divided in their appraisal--some seeing it as harmful to black self-respect and poisonous to whites' perceptions of blacks, and others finding no racism in its humor. Nor were its critics consistent--some who had praised it in the 30's damned it in the 50's, and vice versa. Ely traces the history of the show and its impact on a changing society with diligence, providing an extensive paper trail for future researchers in American social history. An earnest and thoughtful contribution to the growing literature documenting the development of black consciousness in American society.

Pub Date: June 25th, 1991
ISBN: 0-02-909502-6
Page count: 350pp
Publisher: Free Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1991