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A Hard Wash (1896)

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"A colored woman washing a little pickaninny. Very funny, and especially pleasing to children."

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Title: A Hard Wash (1896)

A Hard Wash (1896) on IMDb 5.1/10

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"A colored woman washing a little pickaninny. Very funny, and especially pleasing to children."

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

african american


Comedy | Short




Release Date:

12 September 1896 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A Pickaninny's Battle  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.36 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Remade as A Morning Bath (1896) See more »

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User Reviews

Racist and worthless
4 October 2003 | by (Minffordd, North Wales) – See all my reviews

The plot outline for 'A Hard Wash', already posted on IMDb, is written in the racist language of 1896 but is otherwise accurate. A 'colored woman' washes a 'pickaninny'. You want more detail? Right, then. A young black woman baths a small black boy (her own son, I assume) in a wash basin on a kitchen table. At first, he is standing up with his back to the camera so we see his naked bum. His mother soaps him all over. She soaps a huge quantity of lather into his hair, creating a pyramid of suds on top of his head. She squeezes the bath sponge over his head, soaking him thoroughly. By now, the boy has turned slightly so that he's in profile and we see the water dripping across his genitals. If anybody needs to know, he's not circumcised.

I get the distinct impression that 'A Hard Wash' was meant to be funny in 1896, and - by the standards of that era - this movie probably *was* funny, at least for white audiences. There seems to be an implication here that black children (or black people in general) are just naturally less clean than their white counterparts, and so the act of bathing a black child is some sort of exercise in futility. Very funny, I don't think. This movie is listed as a 'comedy', but the only emotion it aroused in me was disgust.

I'm normally very generous in rating films made before 1910: even if they lack entertainment value, they still possess historic significance. But, really: there's nothing going on in 'A Hard Wash' that needs to be preserved for posterity. Do we need to know what naked children looked like in 1896? No, we don't, and the racist aspects of this movie make it even more extraneous. I'll rate 'A Hard Wash' absolutely zero points.

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