White Policeman’s Blackface Jolson Act Gets Court OK
The City of Baltimore may not bar one of its white police officers from doing an Al Jolson routine blackface during his off-duty hours, the Supreme Court said today.
The court, without elaboration, rejected the city’s plea that it review a ruling by the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals.
The case involves Robert Berger, who became a Baltimore police officer in 1972. During much of his tenure he has also performed at area nightspots, often impersonating Jolson.
In 1982, he was booked to play the Baltimore Hilton. Members of the NAACP protested, and his identity as a police officer became widely known.
The department ordered Berger not to perform in blackface again, but he refused and was eventually stripped of his police powers and assigned to compiling crime statistics.