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[Digest] The secret history of black Santas

发布时间: 2016年12月11日 浏览次数: 编辑: 李秋雨

编者按:美国最大的购物中心Iverson mall因首次雇佣非裔圣诞老人而登上本周头条。但实际上,黑色圣诞老人的历史也许远比你想象的长得多。

"A negro Santa Claus went down a chimney head first and landed on the fire," A 1901 news report, from Bloomfield, New Jersey, read. "The surprised occupants of the room flogged him."Other reports from the time tell of Christmas parties enlivened by "black-face" Santas, singing "negro melodies".

18 years later, the Pittsburgh Daily Post carried a report about the "the first negro Santa ever put on the streets of any city". He had been hired by the Volunteers of America in response to "appeals from poor coloured children", the newspaper added.

But the real breakthrough for black Santas came in 1936, when tap-dancing legend Bill "Bojangles" Robinson became Harlem's "first negro Santa Claus" at an annual Christmas Eve party for underprivileged children.

By the 1960s, Santa had been recruited by the civil rights movement, which was starting to use economic boycotts as a weapon in the fight for racial equality.

In 1969, Santa Claus was described as "one of the established symbols of racism" by a civil rights leader, in a dispute with Shillittoes, a Cincinnati department store, that refused to hire a black Father Christmas.

The store owner's Fred Lazarus III said: "This has nothing to do with equality of employment. It just doesn't fit the symbol as kids have known it."

But the Rev Otis Moss Jr, a regional director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, hit back, saying: "If a department store cannot conceive of a black man as Santa Claus for 30 days, it most assuredly cannot conceive of his being president or vice president for 365 days."

The store caved in and hired a black Santa the following year, something that began happening with increasing frequency across the country in the early 1970s.

One department store in Brooklyn even set up rival black-and-white Santas, separated by a low partition, to enable people to make their choice.

At the Iverson mall, Kenny Green is fully suited up and in character, dispensing Christmas cheer to his young fans.

Green says even some African-American people have difficulty with a black Santa, recalling some "shocking" comments made by one woman last year, who told one of his elves Santa should be white.

But he adds: "When it comes to the spirit of Christmas and what the spirit of Santa is all about, it's not about race, it's not about white or black, it's about the love you have and the spirit you represent."

He says the Mall of America's black Santa will "open a lot of eyes" and could lead to an "influx" of Santas from all different ethnic backgrounds, not just African American.

"I would definitely take my children to go see an Hispanic Santa. I would definitely take my children to go see an Asian Santa," he says.

"Because that's letting them know that Santa is a representation of all of us. That's who we should be. We all should be Santas. We all should have Santa in our heart and in our spirit."

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