"Compelling... a stunningly objective look at the history of the program and how it affected, and was affected by, the culture at large....Remarkable." - Boston Globe; "Amos 'n' Andy was an instant success, and went on to become both a national institution and a subject of racial controversy; Mr. Ely's sensitive and scholarly work shows us why." - New Yorker; "An engrossing, perhaps definitive, account of one of the most fascinating episodes in popular entertainment." - Henry Louis Gates Jr.; "Engaging....[Ely] does a brilliant job of sorting out what is in many ways a hellishly complex story....With exemplary scholarship and well-reasoned eloquence, he advances us a long way toward understanding, while also vividly revealing some unsettling aspects of our culture that shouldn't be forgotten." - San Francisco Examiner and Chronicle; "Painfully funny... ironic." - Maureen Corrigan, "Fresh Air," National Public Radio
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In 1930, 40 million Americans indulged in a national obsession nightly - they eagerly tuned to "Amos 'n' Andy", a radio serial created and acted by two white men about the adventures of two Southern blacks making a new life in a Northern city. Today, "Amos 'n' Andy" survives in the American language mainly as a synonym for racist stereotyping. But that verdict may not wholly explain why both black and white Americans made "Amos 'n' Andy" the most popular radio show of all time. Ely explores the appeal of the famed duo as he narrates a tale of the shifting and ambiguous colour line in 20th-century America. While listeners could find ample reinforcement in the show for their prejudices, white liberals and many Afro-Americans saw it as a warm, humane portrait of black life. Ely recreates the engaging genius of "Amos 'n' Andy" through the heyday of radio, follows the transformation from white actors to blacks on television, and explores the audiences' changing response in the wake of a rising tide of black consciousness.
His "Amos 'n' Andy" reveals a society less and less able to defend the most obvious flaw in the democratic order - the colour line - yet still unwilling to erase it once and for all.