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DPS Talent Show (1962)

Texas Department of Public Safety Historical Museum and Research Center

Sound | 1962

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  •  A duo performs in blackface 
  •  Mary Ann Frederickson became a clerical typist for the Texas Department of Public Safety after graduating from Austin High School in 1961. The following June, she married Charles Sanders, a student of the University of Texas at Austin.  
  •  Another employee sings “Blue Moon” 
  •  Violin and zither performance 
  •  Dancing the Charleston 
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This footage captures some of the acts at the Texas Department of Public Safety’s talent show held in Austin in 1962. DPS employees entertain their coworkers in the audience, singing songs, playing instruments, and dancing the Charleston. Please note, the film depicts a performance by individuals in blackface, indicative of the time in which it was produced. The Texas Archive of the Moving Image does not condone the use of blackface, but presents this film as it was originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as to claim this practice never existed. Blackface refers to a form of theatrical makeup used by white performers to not only represent a black person but also embody racist stereotypes as a style of entertainment. Gaining popularity during the 19th century as a major component of minstrel shows and in the early 20th century as a form of its own, the practice contributed to the dissemination of racist characters, images, and attitudes worldwide. While its prominence began to wane as a theatrical device by the mid-20th century due to changing opinions about race and racism, this film illustrates blackface’s continued presence in popular culture. Furthermore, it is arguably not a coincidence that this instance occurred amid the growing Civil Rights Movement. After being effectively outlawed in Texas for a few years, the NAACP began making a comeback in the state at the time of this footage, advocating for equal rights and integration.