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Jim Crow in Punch and Judy

***The staff of the Jim Crow Museum receives dozens of letters and emails. Some of these communiques offer insight into race relations -- historically and in the present. We have decided to share some of these letters and emails with our Internet visitors.***

Punch and Judy puppets

In reading the histories on the Web site of who and what Jim Crow was, I was extremely surprised to not find any mention of Jim Crow's part in the world's most famous (and longest running) puppet show, "Punch & Judy." Jim was introduced as a character, sometime in the latter part of the 1800s. He was sometimes referred to as Old Jim Crow from Jamaica, then other times he was a servant to Punch's landlord/neighbor, Mr. Scaramouche. Sometimes he was simply referred to as a "distinguished foreigner," which was an obviously friendlier title, which was also used at times for a Chinaman character as well. Obviously this character was phased out over time, and is rarely, if ever seen, at all today anywhere.

Jim Crow was a very stereotypical black gentleman, who looked very much like a Sambo character. He wore a fez, with a tassle, and usually had gold hoop earrings in both ears. Also, when he spoke it was very exaggerated, much like "Amos & Andy", and he sang a lot during the show too. He would sometimes come over to Mr. Punch's house and intervene between Punch, and his master, Mr. Scaramouche, whose dog Toby would bark at and bite Mr. Punch. Mr. Punch and Jim would also have bickering and name calling battles between them, with Jim referring to Punch as "Red Nose," and Punch calling Jim "Black Face." I hope that you will choose to research this extremely famous persona of Jim Crow more, as it certainly deserves to be included in the historical context of not only this site, but the Jim Crow Museum as well.

Mark Frierson "Professor - X"
Houston, Texas
-- Feb. 7, 2005