Rutland Daily Herald from Rutland, Vermont on February 18, 1990 · 44
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Rutland Daily Herald from Rutland, Vermont · 44

Rutland, Vermont
Issue Date:
Sunday, February 18, 1990
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Alfred Haynes of the Burlington NAACP and a few students and faculty continued to question the blackface, and in 1964, walkers agreed to wear light green. n electric stillness fills the darkened auditorium. A pencil-thin spotlight illuminates a black-gloved hand holding a white handkerchief. The hand opens. The handkerchief drops, and a band begins a catchy ragtime tune. A larger spotlight picks up two dancers, both men, who kick their feet high into the air, toes pointed, arms around each others back, moving as one being. The men move apart, still dancing. They face each other, link two feet, lean back at an impossible angle, leap high, and push their hands skyward. This performance is difficult and athletic, at once also graceful and aesthetic. The crowd joins in, clapping and chanting. It is ice dancing in its rapid changes of tempo and mood. It is free-form gymnastics, with certain steps that must be included in an overall routine. It is ballet. It is Kake Walk at the University of Vermont, an 80-year tradition, the crowning event of the school calendar. In a gymnasium, five thousand whites and two or three people of color watch intently as two white college students put on a caricature of African Americans. Their hands and feet are white, exaggerating the fact that to whites, blacks have large hands and feet, whose palms and soles are not the same color as the rest of them. The students faces are colored black, but not a human color. Large white eye and mouth sockets exaggerate the perception whites have of African Americans that their eyes and lips are too big. Kinky-haired wigs complete the mildly repulsive effect. The students strut and kick James W. Loewen is a professor of sociology at the University of Vermont. 4 Venriont Sunday Magazino JFtbruaryif8M990 '

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