LA Weekly: 'Our Gang' reveals the complicated racial history of The Little Rascals

By Tony Mostrom
LA Weekly

Our Gang by Julia LeeOur Gang, Julia Lee's new book on the history of the much-loved Our Gang comedies of the 1920s, ‘30s and ‘40s, has a provocative subtitle: A Racial History of the Little Rascals. Let’s face it, if you're old enough to have been a fan of the black-and-white shorts — which, like many things from that era, had their last real resurgence in the ‘90s, thanks to LaserDisc reissues — you've probably found yourself at one time or other wondering how American audiences during the more or less Klan-friendly 1920s and ‘30s respond to the racially mixed cast of kids making slapstick “mischief” together. Wasn’t white America uniformly piggish toward its Black citizens? Did bigoted adults just grin and bear it for the sake of a few laughs? Surely there must have been some riots in the movie theaters or lynchings in effigy. Actually, that wasn't the case. As Lee discovers in this deeply researched and colorful history, the answers to these questions turn out to be varied, nuanced, fascinating and, at times, surprisingly gratifying.

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