When a photo emerged in 1999 of the now-late governor Mel Carnahan in blackface doing what was reported as a “minstrel show,” state Democrats defended the act, in a story sent by multiple listeners.
Missouri Republicans, upset over charges of racism against Sen. John D. Ashcroft (R-Mo.), are circulating a 1960 photograph of Gov. Mel Carnahan (D) in blackface makeup performing a Kiwanis minstrel show.
Roy Temple, Carnahan’s campaign adviser and executive director of the Missouri Democratic Party, said the local Kiwanis Club in 1961 abandoned the minstrel performance in favor of a variety show at the urging of Carnahan’s brother. At the time, Carnahan’s father, A.S.J. Carnahan, had become the first U.S. ambassador to the newly independent African nation of Sierra Leone.
“To put it in context, there were people like Frank Sinatra and Bob Hope doing these things in the major entertainment media,” Temple said.
Arvarh Strickland, the University of Missouri’s first black professor, said Carnahan should be judged on his public service. “It’s not what he was doing or saying in 1960, but his record as governor of Missouri. . . . When you look at his record, you certainly would not expect to see Gov. Carnahan in blackface.”
The Missouri Legislature’s only black Republican, Rep. Carson Ross of Blue Springs, said Carnahan owes black Missourians an apology. “It was racist,” Ross said. “He needs to repent.”
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