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Ethnic Notions (1986)

Not Rated | | Documentary
This documentary traces the deep-rooted stereotypes which have fueled anti-black prejudice.


Marlon Riggs




Credited cast:
Barbara T. Christian Barbara T. Christian ... Self
George Frederickson George Frederickson ... Cast Stanford
Larry C. Levine Larry C. Levine ... Cast: UC Berkeley
Derique McGee Derique McGee ... Hambone Performer
Carlton Moss Carlton Moss ... Cast: UC Irvine
Esther Rolle ... Narrator
Leni Sloan Leni Sloan ... Cast: Choreographer
Pat Turner Pat Turner ... Cast UMass Boston
Bert Williams ... Self (archive footage)


Ethnic Notions is Marlon Riggs' Emmy-winning documentary that takes viewers on a disturbing voyage through American history, tracing for the first time the deep-rooted stereotypes which have fueled anti-black prejudice. Through these images we can begin to understand the evolution of racial consciousness in America. Loyal Toms, carefree Sambos, faithful Mammies, grinning Coons, savage Brutes, and wide-eyed Pickaninnies roll across the screen in cartoons, feature films, popular songs, minstrel shows, advertisements, folklore, household artifacts, even children's rhymes. These dehumanizing caricatures permeated popular culture from the 1820s to the Civil Rights period and implanted themselves deep in the American psyche. Narration by Esther Rolle and commentary by respected scholars shed light on the origins and devastating consequences of this 150 yearlong parade of bigotry. Ethnic Notions situates each stereotype historically in white society's shifting needs to justify racist ... Written by Anonymous

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Not Rated

Did You Know?


As at October 2020, streaming on The Criterion Channel as part of "Race, Sex & Cinema: The World of Marlon Riggs", a retrospective featuring eight of Marlon Riggs's features and short films and a collection of related short films. See more »


References Rappin' (1985) See more »

User Reviews

Fascinating academic study
8 July 1999 | by HomageSee all my reviews

I saw this doco as part of a racial studies course, and as such found it to be a fascinating and, at times, disturbing, picture of the misconceptions circulated in popular culture regarding African-American culture. While an academic study, this is by no means dry or over-intellectual - in fact if anything it comes across as a little sensationalist at times. However, interesting points are made nonetheless.

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