During the 19th and early 20th centuries, musical and theatrical performances such as minstrel shows and vaudeville were an accepted form of entertainment amongst the dominant white culture of the U.S. However, their popularity came at the expense of marginalized populations, mainly enslaved people and, after the Civil War, freed Black people. The stereotypes generated from these forms of entertainment persist today. Evidence of events at Kalamazoo College involving white performers in blackface and redface - the application of make-up to give the appearance of Black or Indigenous peoples - dates back to 1889. The proof is preserved in the College Archives in print photographs, student photo albums, yearbooks, and the student newspaper. Although troubling, these events are part of the college’s history and should be presented for all students, faculty, staff, and alumni to reflect upon. Displaying this collection of images is in no way a celebration of them.

Recent Submissions

  • Eurodelphian Costume Meeting, 1889 

    Unknown author (Kalamazoo College, 1889-06)
    The note attached to this photo reads “Euro Costume Meeting June 1889 (?). Standing: Lena Powers, Mae Phelps, Mame Hopkins, Ida Cook, Waugh (W. Va.). [Middle row:] Ritta Smith, Birdsall, Potters (Alma), M. Cook, Elizabeth ...
  • Y.W.C.A. New Girl's Party, 1913 

    Unknown author (Kalamazoo College, 1913-09)
    This photo from the album of Lydia Buttolph, Class of 1916, is captioned “Mechanical dolls – at Y.W.C.A. new girl’s party, Sept. 1913.” Five unidentified women dressed as dolls stand in front of Bowen Hall. While four ...
  • Kappa Pi "Majestic" Vaudeville, 1915 

    Unknown author (Kalamazoo College, 1915-03-17)
    This photo from an unidentified student’s album is captioned “K.P. ‘Majestic’ Vaudeville 1915.” The name of the show was likely derived from Kalamazoo’s Majestic Theatre, a vaudeville house located on South Street. The ...
  • Seventeen 

    Unknown author (Kalamazoo College, 1923)
    In 1923, the senior class at Kalamazoo College put on the play “Seventeen” by Booth Tarkington. A photograph of the cast on stage shows one actor in blackface, playing the role of Genesis. The character in Tarkington’s ...
  • Prepping for Historical Pageant, 1933 

    Unknown author (Kalamazoo College, 1933-10)
    In October of 1933, the college celebrated its centennial with a convocation, reunions, a historical pageant, and other events. According to the centennial program, the historical pageant “is designed to portray varying ...
  • The Apache Dance 

    Unknown author (Kalamazoo College, 1950-03)
    Two women in either redface or blackface dance together in the 1950 minstrel show, the Darktown Jamboree, at Kalamazoo College. An article in the March 27, 1950 issue of the Index referred to this act in the minstrel show ...
  • The Darktown Jamboree, 1953 

    Unknown author (Kalamazoo College, 1953-03-21)
    On March 21, 1953, the men’s Century Forum literary society put on its 5th annual minstrel show, the Darktown Jamboree, in Bowen Hall. This image shows three of the stereotypical roles in a minstrel show: the interlocutor, ...
  • Minstrel Show Chorus Line 

    Unknown author (Kalamazoo College, 1953 c.)
    This photograph of a minstrel show at Kalamazoo College (c. 1953) shows six men on stage in a chorus line formation dressed in bandeau tops and in shorts with balloons attached. They are all barefoot and in blackface, ...
  • Three Women Singing in a Minstrel Show 

    Unknown author (Kalamazoo College, 1950s c.)
    Three women in blackface and wearing striped pencil skirts, neckties, and headscarves perform in an undated minstrel show at Kalamazoo College. Members of the chorus sit on the stage behind them. The men’s Century Forum ...
  • Women Performing in a Minstrel Show 

    Unknown author (Kalamazoo College, 1950s)
    Women perform in a minstrel show at Kalamazoo College in these two undated photographs. Front and center on stage, is the interlocutor in a hat and suit. Members of the chorus (wearing white shirts) sit in rows behind ...