Off-campus UMass Amherst users: To download dissertations, please use the following link to log into our proxy server with your UMass Amherst user name and password.

Non-UMass Amherst users, please click the view more button below to purchase a copy of this dissertation from Proquest.

(Some titles may also be available free of charge in our Open Access Dissertation Collection, so please check there first.)

Black representation in American animated short films, 1928–1954

Christopher Paul Lehman, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Black representation in American animated short films circularly evolved between 1928 and 1954. Blackface minstrelsy at first figured heavily in black representation. The increasing prominence of African-American movie stars and technological improvements in animation led to extremely diverse animated black images in the late 1930s and early 1940s. With the decline of African-American film roles in the 1950s, however, animators fell back to minstrelsy-derived black images. Animated black characterization emerged as blackface changed in the first sound cartoons from a generic cartoon design to an image restricted to black characters. In the early 1930s, cartoon studios began to significantly differentiate black characters from animal characters. Studios focused upon developing characters with strong personalities in the mid-1930s, but black characterizations were mostly derivative of blackface minstrels and black actors. African-American artistic expressions influenced animation during World War II but did not affect the studios' black images. From 1946 to 1954, studios ignored African-American artistry and reverted to past styles of black imaging.

Subject Area

Black history|Ethnic studies|Black studies|Film studies|African American Studies

Recommended Citation

Lehman, Christopher Paul, "Black representation in American animated short films, 1928–1954" (2002). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3056252.