Fallon apologized following the backlash in a cellphone video. He told his followers that portraying Rock with blackface was a “terrible decision”.
The "Saturday Night Live" alum then revealed that he was told not to speak about the incident that took place nearly 20 years ago, but wanted to clear the air.
“I’m friends with Jimmy,” Rock said in the Times story. “Jimmy’s a great guy. And he didn’t mean anything. A lot of people want to say intention doesn’t matter, but it does. And I don’t think Jimmy Fallon intended to hurt me. And he didn’t.”
Blackface can be traced back to minstrel shows in the mid-to-late 19th Century where white actors would paint their faces black and their lips red to portray a Black character, often times as a caricature of reality.
They had a dehumanizing quality.
These types of shows and depictions of black people took hold with characters like the Mammy, Uncle Tom, and Jezebel that would become key characters in visual art where Black people had a role.
For Black people, it was hurtful. For Black representation in film, it was harmful and had a lasting impact that can still be seen today with how Black characters are written in some art forms.
Recently, several television series in the US and the UK, including "Little Britain," "30 Rock" and "The Golden Girls" have had episodes that have featured the practice removed from streaming.