"Rastus" has been used as a generic, often derogatory, name for black men at least since 1880, when Joel Chandler Harris included a Black deacon named "Brer Rastus" in the first Uncle Remus book. However, "Rastus" has never been particularly popular as a Black name. For example, the 1870 census reported only 42 individuals named "Rastus" in the United States, of whom only four were Black or mulatto.
Rastus—as a stereotypically happy black man, not as a particular person—became a familiar character in minstrel shows. This is documented in Every Time I Turn Around: Rite, Reversal, and the End of Blackface Minstrelsy, and Racism and Poverty in Ford City, PA, 1959: Minstrel Show, and in fiction such as Adventures of Rufus Rastus Brown in Darktown (1906) and Rastus Comes to the Point: A Negro Farce, and in popular songs such as Rastus, Take Me Back (1909) and (Rufus Rastus Johnson Brown) What You Going to Do When the Rent Comes 'Round (1905), on radio, and in films, most notably the Rastus series of short films, with titles that included How Rastus Got His Chicken and Rastus Runs Amuck.
"Rastus" is also the name of the African-American character that first appeared on packages of Cream of Wheat cereal in 1893 and whose image remained the Cream of Wheat trademark until the 1920s, when it was replaced by a photograph of Frank L. White, a Chicago chef in chef's hat and jacket. His face has been featured on the box with only slight modifications until the present day.
The name Rastus is a shortening of the Greek name of a character in the New Testament, Erastus of Corinth.
- FAST-US-1 (TRENPK2) Introduction to American English. "Cursing: Obscenities, Expletives and 'Forbidden' Words." FAST-US-1 Intro to American English Reference File, 04-16-2007. Retrieved on 11-08-2007.
- Every Time I Turn Around: Rite, Reversal, and the End of Blackface Minstrelsy retrieved May 3, 2006
- Racism and Poverty in Ford City, PA, 1959: Minstrel Show, retrieved May 3, 2006]
- Adventures of Rufus Rastus Brown in Darktown
- Rastus Comes to the Point: A Negro Farce essentially a dead link with no information
- Rastus, Take Me Back
- (Rufus Rastus Johnson Brown) What You Going to Do When the Rent Comes 'Round
- Rastus series of short films
- How Rastus Got His Chicken at the Internet Movie Database
- Rastus Runs Amuck at the Internet Movie Database
- The Advertiser's Holy Trinity: Aunt Jemima, Rastus, and Uncle Ben.
- Connotations of the Names Rastus and Liza An analysis from outside the U.S., from the Department of Translation Studies, University of Tampere, Finland
- blackface From the personal website of william wu
- Was the Cream of Wheat Chef a Real Person? From The Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia
- The Advertiser's Holy Trinity: Aunt Jemima, Rastus, and Uncle Ben From The Museum of Public Relations
- Gallery of vintage graphic design featuring Rastus
- How Rastus Got His Turkey (1910), Short film, Times Review.
- Rastus Among the Zulus (1913), Short film, from The Internet Movie Database
- Rastus Runs Amuck (1917), Short film, from The Internet Movie Database