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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

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Did You Know?


This film is included in "The Signifyin' Works of Marlon Riggs", released by Criterion, spine #1,082. See more »


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User Reviews

Great Video and message
23 April 2009 | by boonya2See all my reviews

I think this was an excellent video. I wouldn't listen to young college kids who feel they were forced to watch it at Temple University.

All I can say is that I saw it in college and thought it was good then and is still good today.

It is an eye opener and anyone who has questions about why Black people are offended by certain images, movies, etc should watch and find out.

If a person can watch this video and truly not understand why the images portrayed are indeed offensive, then I have to think that person will never understand. I noticed a previous poster thought the cartoons were funny or amusing, this shows a deep level of ignorance on that persons part.

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