In “Be a Clown! Black Entertainment and the Myth of the Natural Man” I explored the relationship that whites have with black entertainers and athletes. I’m right now watching a PBS special on the banjo, narrated by comedian and banjo player Steve Martin.
The banjo was featured in the original blackface entertainment, which started before the Civil War. This was the portrayal of black entertainers by whites, not blacks, but clearly whites were looking to blacks for something. The blackface entertainer portrayed the black man as childish and foolish, but with the idea that being more primitive, was able to express heartfelt emotions of joy and sadness more deeply and genuinely.
So the myth of the natural man is very old; it dawned right with the dawning of modern mass entertainment. Maybe it’s the nature of mass culture and mass entertainment itself to need new myths. But again, we have seen the myth of the African as the natural man is dangerous, destructive, and worst of all false, and has to be dispensed with.