Wednesday, January 12, 2022

A 1934 boycott of Will Rogers for his use of the N-word on his radio show

In his New York Review of Books essay on two books on comedy, Ian Frazier recounts a 1934 incident from Will Rogers's radio show, when he referred to a song's melody as an African-American spiritual – but used the n-word three times in discussing the song (Billy Hill's 1933 song "The Last Round-Up", which was a hit at the time). If the incident occurred today, the radio presenter would be roundly criticized, while some would lament the criticism as "woke" or "cancel culture". Yet even in 1934, as Frazier points out, the sponsor of Rogers's show was boycotted by African-Americans – part of the long history of resistance to racist images and slurs. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 12 January 2022)


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