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From Jim Crow to Jay-ZRace, Rap, and the Performance of Masculinity$
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Miles White

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780252036620

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252036620.001.0001

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Shadow and Act

Shadow and Act

American Popular Music and the Absent Black Presence

(p.9) 1. Shadow and Act
From Jim Crow to Jay-Z

Miles White

University of Illinois Press

This chapter examines minstrel performance as the first construction of an absent black presence in American popular music, signified by the minstrel mask, and as the first sustained project involving the fetishization and commodification of black male subjectivity. Minstrelsy practice required a body at the level of performance, but not a black one; rather, it called for the representation of blackness constructed in the white American racial imagination of the time. After the Civil War, black male performers who began to access the entertainment industry in minstrel troupes, and they did so in large numbers, were required to do so in blackface since the black mask conformed to deeply embedded social stereotypes of black masculine subjectivity.

Keywords:   minstrel performance, minstrelsy, absent black presence, minstrel mask, black mask, blackface, black male subjectivity, black male performers, American popular music

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