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The Creolization of American CultureWilliam Sidney Mount and the Roots of Blackface Minstrelsy$

Christopher J. Smith

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780252037764

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252037764.001.0001

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(p.217) Appendix

(p.217) Appendix

Blackface Scholarship

The Creolization of American Culture

Christopher J. Smith

University of Illinois Press

General Comments: Observation, Appropriation, and Synthesis

The scholarly literature informing the present study occupies several overlapping areas of investigation, both within and beyond that of musicology. The modern “rehabilitation” of blackface minstrelsy as a topic for serious scholarly investigation dates roughly from Hans Nathan’s 1962 Dan Emmett and the Rise of Early Negro Minstrelsy.1 Since that publication—which still forms a cornerstone of the repertoire’s musicological analysis—subsequent texts by Dale Cockrell, Eric Lott, William Mahar, and W. T. Lhamon Jr., among others, have deepened our understanding of minstrelsy’s theatrical, semiotic, economic, and sociological implications.2 This book takes a crucial next step by arguing that, for all the noxious racist stereotypes that blackface no doubt manifested—and that recent scholarship has successfully nuanced and complicated—the blackface minstrels not only were opportunist appropriators but were also engaged in a kind of quasi-ethnographic “participant observation.”3 At least as far back as Charles Dibdin (1745–1814) in his 1768 ballad opera The Padlock, and probably since first African immigration to the New World, close observation and imitation of expressive arts, crossing the color line or lines in both directions, had been prototypical components in the creole synthesis.

Unquestionably the minstrels’ activities involved racism, exploitation, appropriation, and opportunism.4 Yet despite these tendencies, which in some scholarly eras have delegitimized minstrelsy as a topic for research, the African American sources’ creativity and the Anglo-Celtic imitators’ close observation, and their willingness to blur certain racial boundaries, made possible the first American popular-music craze. The racial bias and economic exploitation inherent in the blackface innovators’ conduct need not—any more than in other epochs of popular music and indeed of ethnographic scholarship itself—blind us to the potential insights available in their observational data.5

The following texts, which represent all eras of blackface scholarship, have played a significant role in developing the thesis of this book. In the discussion, the assignment of various texts as representative of certain categories (p.218) of scholarship should not be taken as limiting those texts’ relevance only to those single categories.

Primary Sources

The fundamental primary sources in any study focusing on Mount as a reporter on minstrelsy’s creole synthesis are his own artworks, ephemera, and physical heirlooms, the vast majority of which are held in the archive and collection of the Long Island Museum of American Art, History, and Carriages, in Mount’s birthplace of Setauket, New York.6 The museum collection includes both material objects (Mount’s flutes, tin whistles, self-designed violin and music-stand prototypes—even his kazoo and tuning fork); thousands of letters (of interest especially for the correspondence between himself and his musical colleagues, including brother Robert Nelson Mount, an itinerant dancing master); diaries and other autobiographical material; a vast collection of printed and manuscript music both collected by Mount and inherited from his uncle Micah Hawkins; hundreds of pages of pencil sketches and watercolors; and over three fourths of his total catalog of oil paintings. Additional primary source materials are held by the New-York Historical Society on Central Park, the New York Historical Association in Cooperstown, and, in small numbers, at various museums elsewhere in the United States.7 This book is heavily dependent on extensive investigation in these archives, and is particularly indebted to the assistance of the staff, historians, archivists, and friends of the Long Island Museum of American Art, History, and Carriages.

Other types of primary-source documents also make essential contributions. Although the illustrated newspapers cited widely by Cockrell, Lhamon, and Lott are an important resource for understanding minstrelsy in the 1830s and ’40s, their reportage on earlier multiethnic contacts and music in New York is relatively indirect—and their print runs largely postdate the street roots of minstrelsy.8 On the other hand, the Market Book, a set of antebellum reminiscences by Lower East Side butcher Thomas De Voe, is frequently cited, in part because of its relatively unique character—few contemporaneous sources match it.9 Analogous primary material is also available in the reminiscences of period actors and singers: for example, most of the information available on the preminstrelsy theatrical career of “Jump Jim Crow” originator Thomas Dartmouth Rice (1808–1860) comes from the autobiography of his first employer, the Albany-born impresario Noah Ludlow (1795–1886).10 Ludlow’s prolix memoirs are a useful primary resource on the experience of early nineteenth century touring theatrical troupes and the degrees to which (p.219) their members’ practical combination of comic, acrobatic, and dance abilities shaped the skill sets of the early blackface performers. Ludlow’s narrative also confirms the practical importance and the creative centrality of marginal, liminal, maritime, riverine, and frontier spaces, recounting tales of Rice’s exploits in Montgomery, Mobile, Louisville, Cincinnati, Philadelphia, and only eventually in New York City. At the same time, an important corrective to the picture derived from Ludlow is a reconstruction of the early musical history of Long Island, whose maritime trade made it as much of a cultural crossroads and creolizing space as were those other locales.11

Musicological Scholarship

Modern scholarship on nineteenth-century blackface minstrelsy rests on a relatively small corpus of highly influential works, only a few of which are primarily musicological in perspective and analytical methodology. In Dan Emmett and the Rise of Early Negro Minstrelsy, still in many ways the most detailed technical study of the blackface repertoire, Nathan brings to his investigation strengths in both archival and analytical areas, and a remarkable command of minstrelsy’s melodic materials. Nathan, like William J. Mahar, is also valuable in helping us understand the theatrical forerunners of black-face—the eighteenth-century touring theatrical idioms that both provided training for the first generation of blackface minstrels and prepared audiences for minstrelsy’s creole synthesis as it moved from the street to the stage in the 1820s.12 Later studies have built on Nathan and added a focus on contextual studies of the idiom’s meaning, utilizing critical approaches taken especially from theater history, folklore, semiotics, and American studies.

Dale Cockrell’s 1997 Demons of Disorder: Early Blackface Minstrels and Their World is the most effective musicological investigation of blackface since Nathan and compensates for some limitations in that earlier text. Cockrell constructs an incisive, readable, and effective study of the links between nineteenth-century minstrelsy’s masking and riotous character and the earlier European traditions of charivari, carnivale, and “rough music.”13 He approaches primary sources (newspapers, imagery, and musical specifics) with a combined analytical and interpretive approach, informed by musical analysis and cultural history, which strongly influences this book.

Grounding his work in “economics, politics, status, and music,” Cock-rell argues for the validity of a “thick-description” cultural-anthropological approach, arguing that “anecdotal evidence,” because it reflects historical attitudes, can be “a form of social myth … at least as powerful [and thus (p.220) revealing] as fact.”14 He quotes Prague School literary critics, Bakhtin principal among them, to link blackface in the masking and liminal disruption of minstrelsy to European traditions of carnival and charivari that had continued in the New World as, for example, Pinkster (in Upstate New York), mumming (in Pennsylvania), and John Canoe (in the Tidewater South).15 And he extends this culture-studies approach into the realm of the musicological, linking specific songs and dance on the minstrel stage—most notably the archetypal “Jump Jim Crow”—to folkloric sources.

Cockrell’s Demons of Disorder thus yields useful perspectives and practical evidence for debunking the simplistic presumption that blackface was merely an incompetent northern white caricature of southern black folkways; instead, he situates blackface in the history of transgressive, boundary-crossing festival as public or social protest. He confirms the degree to which blackface in the years prior to the 1843 launch of the Virginia Minstrels—that is, in the same “early” period that forms a central topic of this book—existed in a complex cultural environment, full of collisions between wildly divergent performance idioms and sociopolitical trends. In Cockrell’s interpretation, blackface may thus be seen as a staging of carnivalesque liminality and Jacksonian social-political mobility, and a dramatization of conflicts between period definitions of public versus private space and working- versus middle-class values.

Cockrell makes another important contribution to the present study—if only in passing—when he suggests that one way to undercut simplistic accusations about “racism” in minstrelsy is simply “to imagine a performance of a minstrel show … [and thus] to envision something else” than “mere” parody.16 He recognizes that the 1840s context was a specific and idiosyncratic space for performance and reception, and that modern scholarship that ignores contextual and historical considerations is liable to error. Cockrell’s sensitivity to minstrelsy’s contexts of performance, and the sounds that resulted, provide an important justification for analysis of performance practice as one part of the present study.

However, Cockrell’s ability to reconnect blackface with the European branch of its roots (e.g., through the Upstate New York celebration called Pfingster or Pinkster) means of necessity that he places less emphasis on the original African American informants; it also indicates the possibility of an expressive exchange that went both ways.17 As a result, Demons of Disorder is comparatively devoid of attention to Afro-Caribbean performance aesthetics.18 Cockrell is masterful at recognizing the role of liminality, dichotomy, boundaries, borders, and “in-between” places in minstrelsy’s core appeal. But a text-focused approach tends to deemphasize the idiom’s central appeal via performance (p.221) and participation, and it does not focally address the ubiquity of the creole synthesis across a wide range of riverine and maritime geographic contexts.19

Cockrell does a particularly effective job of locating behavioral archetypes in the careers of three antebellum performers. He situates the song and character of “Jump Jim Crow”—the ragged, slow-talking, tongue-twisting dancer and leaper whose character traits recur in Topsy of Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Alfalfa of the Our Gang movie serial—in the life, career, and artistic choices of Thomas Dartmouth “Daddy” Rice.20 He finds “Zip Coon”—the flash-dressing, fast-talking, foppish dandy or pimp who emerges again in archetypal African American trickster characters as diverse as Staggerlee and Snoop Dogg—in the singer, actor, dancer, publisher, and social outlaw George Washington Dixon (1801?–1861). Third and latest in Cockrell’s semiotic lineage of blackface archetypes is the song and character “Old Dan Tucker”—the tall-tale-telling, giant-brag-spouting frontiersman—who Cockrell locates in the prototypical urban ethnomusicology of banjo virtuoso and blackface troupe leader Joel Walker Sweeney (1810–1860).21 Cockrell’s strategy is borrowed in W. T. Lhamon Jr.’s later Raising Cain (1998), which articulates cultural tropes as “lore cycles” and identifies the dance steps of Dancing for Eels, 1820 Catharine Market in the buck-and-wing steps of Bill “Bojangles” Robinson (1878–1949) and MC Hammer’s videotaped autobiography (ca. 1982).22

Cockrell also describes the gradual codification and co-optation of blackface in the 1840s and ’50s: the way that, in the symbolic contestation of public space and appropriation of public idioms by working- versus middle-class forces, the expanding bourgeois was essentially victorious. He links this semiotic victory to a gradual standardization and codification in notation of what in earlier minstrelsy had been an improvisational performance practice. Such objectification—part of a larger pattern of expanding middle-class markets also revealed by the nineteenth-century explosion in sheet music publishing—confirms blackface’s cross-class shift in this period. As minstrel songs entered the respectable middle-class parlor, the musical and improvisational elements—particularly those having to do with poly-rhythms and the moving body—that had made those songs’ performances transgressive were carefully pruned away.

Robert Carlin’s The Birth of the Banjo: Joel Walker Sweeney and Early Minstrelsy is that rare example of a musicological analysis enriched by a practitioner’s perspective. The fruit of decades of work on Sweeney and the banjo, Carlin’s book confirms that, by dint of background, geographical origin, and aptitudes, Sweeney was, like Dixon, Rice, and Emmett, a “prototypical ethnomusicologist.”23 He learned the banjo directly from black informants, and, (p.222) like them, had extensive experience in cosmopolitan, multiethnic, boundary communities (the Ohio River Valley, Tidewater Virginia, and South Carolina) in which to experience the roots of the creole synthesis. His emphasis on performance practice, dance iconography, contemporaneous musical vernaculars, “player’s knowledge,” and sociocultural context provides important perspectives for this book.

In the edited volume Inside the Minstrel Mask and in his own Behind the Burnt Cork Mask, William J. Mahar provides pilot studies whose methodological approaches and detailed analysis are also models for this book. His “‘Backside Albany’ and Early Blackface Minstrelsy: A Contextual Study of America’s First Blackface Song” is relevant here because of its recognition of the importance of reception in understanding the intentions and specificity of minstrelsy, and because of his insistence upon analyzing primary texts not only for their symbolic intent but also for their actual performative content.24 Like many blackface scholars, Mahar is indebted to the primary-source recollections contained in De Voe’s Market Book, but he also provides an important corrective to some earlier scholarship through his recovery of African American spoken and musical dialects as a source illuminating performance practice.25

Dena J. Epstein’s Sinful Tunes and Spirituals: Black Folk Music to the Civil War is a standard reference work, based in primary source study (newspapers, plantation records, printers’ bills, street literature), on African American musical contributions prior to 1861, and it remains useful because of its detail and comprehensiveness.26 Epstein provides particularly useful information on pre-1800 African American music makers in the slave South, but also includes northerners, dancers, and banjo players, and thus directly informs the present study.

Robert Winans’s essay, “Early Minstrel Show Music 1843–1852,” with its topical focus on banjo history and performance practice, like Carlin’s Sweeney book brings the perspective of a player to the analysis of performance practice.27 He makes good observations about the centrality of musical sound—not just texts—to minstrelsy, and provides useful evidence on instruments and instrumental technique. His concrete tabulations from minstrel show programs reveal stylistic and topical shifts in song topics and types in two periods (1843–47 and 1848–52) during which minstrelsy was gradually codified, these in turn confirming the changing patterns of marketing and consumption already remarked by Cockrell. Winans also links to Cockrell’s and Lott’s analyses of minstrelsy as transgressive burlesque, and to the postbellum period’s “blacks in blackface” and later African American dance idioms.28

(p.223) Reception Studies

In contrast to the literature on minstrelsy’s musical components and ante-bellum black-white interaction, the vast majority of scholarship focusing specifically on the life and work of W. S. Mount is art-historical in nature. Mount is widely recognized as one of the first great American vernacular painters, and an artist whose biography, subjects, and symbolic language are useful sources on the expressive and political culture of his time. In contrast, very few studies address musical themes in Mount’s works; art history’s perspectives on Mount the musician, mostly dating to the mid-1970s, are exemplified by Alfred Frankenstein’s statement that “William Sidney Mount is not a milestone in American musical creativity.”29 It is unsurprising that art historians might miss the significance of the musical evidence, and it is true that Mount’s talents as an artist evidently outweighed his talents as a musician. Nevertheless, it is surprising that so rich a source of period musical data should not have been the focus of extended musicological monographs.30

Most blackface scholarship, like most art-historical commentary, recognizes that minstrelsy’s public display implicated complex motives, allusions, subtexts, and issues of cultural power. But to presume that such display was only focused on outward-directed symbolic motives and meanings, as does much of the musicological scholarship, or to analyze paintings of performance only for such meanings, as does most art-history scholarship on Mount, is to ignore the physical, participatory pleasure of that performance. Symbolic analysis of this sort fails to recognize the inward-directed, “centripetal” rewards and appeal of that participation, which I argue are a fundamental source of its immediate and resilient popularity.31

Participation was a fundamental part of Afro-Caribbean and African American performance, powerfully attractive as a focus not only of observation but also imitation, and, precisely, as a result of this attraction, powerfully subversive. As Cockrell, Lhamon, and Lott show, middle-class derogation of working-class and minority art forms was an implicitly political response to the liminality and threat to order that these art forms represented. Blackface minstrelsy was (accurately) perceived as threatening to dominant-culture mores and strictures: because early minstrelsy was a participatory, transgressive, illicit, body-integrative, sexual idiom, originating at the margins but powerfully attractive across boundaries of race and class. The factors that made the experience of minstrelsy both transgressive and attractive—the actual performance practice and rhythmic results depicted in Mount’s and (p.224) related artworks, and the communal, participatory experience engendered by that performance practice—are central topics of this book.

Satire and mockery were integral to European carnival, but blackface imitation à la “Zip Coon” and the later cakewalk was equally influenced by Afro-Caribbean and African American models. The early blackface practitioners, who I have suggested may usefully be regarded as practitioners of participant observation, would have internalized the African American traditions of caricature as surely as they did elements of movement and music.32 Art history of the antebellum period locates the internal contradictions in middle-class elitist attitudes about minstrelsy but has sometimes failed to recognize the single most significant factor subverting that elitism: the powerful and seductive attraction of the performance itself. Not only working-class but also bourgeois audiences were intrigued by minstrelsy: hearing it, seeing it, singing the songs, learning the dances.

Antebellum cultural arbiters denigrated minstrelsy’s working-class performance because its attraction had to be delegitimized. This is why composers, conductors, critics, and political leaders denied a vernacular music’s aesthetic quality and asserted its immorality, why they claimed that bodily pleasure was unacceptable, why a canon of “great” (e.g., middle-class-legitimated) works, intended for contemplation and not participation, was created in the first place. In the face of the demonstrable, pleasurable bodily and participatory experience of African American performance, those who profited through the maintenance of hierarchized aesthetic categories had to find rationales for dismissing blackface.

Some more localized sources, less widely known or employed, provide useful bits of information, particularly about Mount’s experience, biography, and subjects. For example, the exhibit catalog William Sidney Mount: Works in the Collection of the Museums at Stony Brook, prepared by the then-curator at the museum holding the vast majority of Mount materials, provides a useful synthesis of art-historical and biographical-contextual perspectives.33 Several of its analyses, of works both focal (Dance of the Haymakers, The Banjo Player) and peripheral (The Sportsman’s Last Visit) to the present study, can be argued to support a crucial claim: that Mount’s earlier urban experience on the multiethnic Lower East Side continued to inform (and appear in) his paintings during the later, post-1830 middle-class and rural period of his life. I have argued that the “creole synthesis” was witnessed by Mount; that it appears (sometimes explicitly, but also implicitly, and quite widely) in his paintings; and finally, that those paintings can be “read” for the musicological information they provide regarding minstrelsy’s earliest improvisational and (p.225) participatory creole roots. The catalog’s synthesis of art criticism and local biography provides effective evidence in support of these arguments.

Semiotics and Culture Studies Scholarship

Some of the most influential and far-reaching recent scholarship, that which has gone the farthest to “rehabilitate” blackface as a legitimate topic for research, has occurred in the field of semiotics and culture studies. Prior to these works, which commenced with Lott’s Love and Theft (1993), most scholarship on minstrelsy predated the 1970s, and took the analytical and comparative approach of Nathan’s 1962 Dan Emmett and the Rise of Early Negro Minstrelsy. The William Mahar–edited Inside the Minstrel Mask (1996) presents a useful summary of 1990s scholars’ approaches to the topic. It is a concise and diverse collection of contemporary scholarship on blackface minstrelsy, and the most influential authors—Lott, Lhamon, Mahar, Cockrell, Nathan, and Robert Carlin—are all represented. W. T. Lhamon Jr.’s “Every Time I Wheel About I Jump Jim Crow: Cycles of Minstrel Transgression from Cool White to Vanilla Ice,” is a good summary of Lhamon’s perspectives and methodology as worked out in more expansive form in his Raising Cain and Jump Jim Crow. As a literary scholar, he is able to link manifestations of minstrelsy, its “structural indeterminacy and improvisation,” and its creole synthesis, to contemporaneous street culture, to Melville, Twain, and later performance idioms, including the entire history of “white mimicry of the black carnivalesque.” Lhamon argues that the actual sound of blackface, and its relation to Afro-Caribbean sources, is unknowable, saying “we can debate how much or little minstrels were trying to copy black culture until the cows come home.” But with the right analytical tools—and the right sources, W. S. Mount being exemplary—we can confirm the complexity, the vitality, and the specific musical content of the blackface synthesis.34

Also in Inside the Minstrel Mask, Barbara Lewis’s “Daddy Blues: The Evolution of the Dark Dandy” provides useful information regarding the African American theatrical roots for minstrelsy in New York City, and the interplay between minstrelsy and other forms of traveling and vernacular theater.35 Like Lhamon’s, Lewis’s is a literary critical and culture studies analysis, in this case of the caricature of the black “dandy,” which originates as a racist parody of African American pretenses toward upward economic mobility, in the song “Zip Coon.” Her information about New York’s African Grove Theater, founded in 1821 by the Caribbean-born William Henry Brown, which staged (p.226) all-black performances of Shakespeare in competition with white houses in the 1820s, provides valuable documentation of the underreported agency of African Americans in the antebellum New York City theater world.

Marian Winter’s article “Juba and American Minstrelsy” from 1947 on the 1830s African American character dancer William Henry Lane (“Master Juba”) (ca. 1825–ca. 1852/53) remains the analysis that most effectively recognizes the role of the body and of improvisation in the blackface synthesis.36 She provides an essential perspective on the actual history of African experience in North America, and, presaging later scholars, she identifies in West African idioms the roots of the participatory song-and-dance worship form called the ring shout. At the same time, she articulates the crucial recognition that, by the nineteenth century, African source idioms had already been synthesized into a pan–African American dance consciousness.37 Winter identifies the African roots of the dance and body percussion called Juba (giouba) and the presence of both black and white renditions of Caribbean dance in eighteenth-century theatres, and situates Master Juba as both the inheritor and the transmitter of a specifically African American improvisational performance synthesis. Finally, she notes the sparse visual evidence and the challenges—but significance—inherent in using these sources as iconography. Winter’s analysis is a crucial foundation and inspiration for this book’s identification of Afro-Caribbean elements in Mount’s dance paintings.

William Mahar’s “Ethiopian Skits and Sketches: Contents and Contexts of Blackface Minstrelsy, 1840–1890” in many ways presents Inside the Minstrel Mask’s most sophisticated integration of musicological and culture-studies approaches. Mahar clearly articulates the “troublesome” racial implications that have made some scholars reluctant to address the idiom’s role in U.S. popular music, and the importance of “the application of interdisciplinary methods and interpretive strategies [in order] to understand the content and context.” He describes a range of analytical methods and of source materials that facilitate better cultural and historical understanding, but in practice largely limits himself to considerations of late (post-1840) minstrelsy as theatrical text.38 His analysis of the race and class semiotics of early American theatre is a useful, more scholarly complement to Lhamon’s more impressionistic treatment.

Eileen Southern brings a matchless command of primary sources to the question of minstrelsy. Her Inside the Minstrel Mask essay provides important commentary on the contribution of African American source musicians to early minstrelsy: John Picayune Butler, the marvelously monickered “Old Corn Meal” and “Pot Pie” Herbert, and William Henry “Juba” Lane, as well (p.227) as their white imitators: Bob Farrell, Joe Blackburn, John Diamond, and of course Dixon and Rice. Southern recognizes the relationship between African American street sources and whites-in-blackface stage transformations but does not address the processes of exchange that connected them. Southern’s trademark bibliographic research usefully unearths a long and detailed essay by J. K. Kennard in the Knickerbocker magazine, ethnographic descriptions of performances in the slave South that are strongly reminiscent of Anglo-Celtic mumming, and good commentary on the interplay between northern white minstrel songs and southern black folkloric sources.39

Several of these blackface initiators, like Mount, grew up in lower Manhattan and might well have been among the crowds of boys and young men who watched the street dancers during the day and formed the crowds in the theaters at night. To subsume, as Southern does, this year-after-year and day-after-day contact and cultural exchange under the simplistic description “listening and impersonating” distorts the to-and-fro nature of the exchange.40 To the contrary, this book argues that the massive popular response to Dixon and Rice when they first danced on the stages of Lower Manhattan theatres resulted from the excitement working-class audiences felt at seeing their street culture (what Lhamon calls “the first Atlantic Street culture”) on the quasi-legitimate stage for the first time.41

Eric Lott’s 1993 Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class inaugurated a fundamental shift in studies of minstrelsy, drawing as it did on semiotics, cultural anthropology, and post-Marxist critique (notably Adorno, Gramsci, and Bourdieu) to show how minstrelsy embodied and enabled a white, male, working-class response to economic and psycho-sexual realities in the Jacksonian United States. Lott reaches well beyond the traditional arenas of music history but primarily occupies himself with blackface’s symbolic meanings rather than its participatory experience. He does identify the transgressive and liminal capacities of minstrelsy’s ritualized performance as the source of its appeal across ethnic boundaries in an era of sociopolitical contestation and transformation, and provides an “analysis of cultural forms, [and] the various sorts of textuality and subjectivity.”42

Lott’s study is, with Guralnick’s Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm and Blues and the Southern Dream of Freedom, possibly the best, most insightful, and most useful articulation of the complexities of black-white racial borrowing throughout U.S. popular music history, and in its understanding of the layers of attraction-repulsion that drove white responses to black expressive culture.43 Lott identifies the multisemiotic communities and performance idioms that “intersected” in the world of early minstrelsy, provides an effective link (p.228) between Cockrell’s location of minstrelsy within the heritage of European carnival and the scholarly literature on folklore and festival, and shows that minstrelsy—like later black-white syntheses—embodied complex signifiers of sex, gender, and class. He also provides particularly effective evidence that early minstrelsy was more directly observed and more accurately replicated than has previously been presumed, but he is not equipped to analyze sound, dance, or improvised performance.44

Lott’s Love and Theft was a watershed work in rehabilitating scholarly approaches to minstrelsy, paralleling Cockrell’s insights about blackface’s European carnivalesque social and critical lineage, and bringing perspectives from literary, semiotic and gender studies analysis. Such perspectives permit Lott to identify in minstrelsy semiotic dichotomies that lie deep in the U.S. cultural psyche: insider/outsider, black/white, male/female, obedience/transgression, and so on. Lott’s “Blackface and Blackness: The Minstrel Show in American Culture” provides a useful summary of that larger argument.45 Lott’s key points are that minstrelsy was powerfully attractive at least in part because it provided a “mask” that let working-class whites position themselves as socially superior to the poorest blacks and thus seek upward mobility, but also mock the middle class they were seeking to join, as well as create the performed semblance of defiance. However, as with Love and Theft, in this essay Lott does not address the participatory bodily experience of African American performance. His Prague School–informed, Gramscian analysis is thus effective for unpacking semiotic layers in the reception of blackface but continues to treat its audience’s enjoyment as contemplative, rather than participatory.

Robert G. Allen’s Horrible Prettiness: Burlesque and American Culture, which predates and would seem to have influenced Eric Lott’s Love and Theft, is a fascinating, well-informed semiotic analysis of the social, class, and gender implications of theatrical burlesque, a slightly later idiom but one whose marginalization, gender play, and transgressive liminality exhibit useful parallels with minstrelsy’s symbolic and political meaning. Allen himself makes these explicit:

The link between burlesque and minstrelsy is considerably stronger than that suggested by [their] formal similarities. Both forms worked upon principles of transgression and inversion. Both were constructed around ironic, low-other characters, whose speech, costume, behavior, and demeanor helped to structure different but homologous ideological problematics: gender and race, respectively. As low-other constructions, both the burlesque (p.229) performer and the blackface minstrel were subject to simultaneous contrary interpretations by their audiences.46

Allen’s study enriches Mahar’s, illuminating the linear progression from the earliest U.S. touring theatrical idioms (notably, English ballad opera) through circuses, minstrelsy, and Italian opera, into the postbellum idioms of burlesque and vaudeville. His analysis of burlesque’s webs of signification, which implicated sex, gender, morality, and social power, presages Lott’s on minstrelsy, and he has a marvelous turn of phrase about the exchange of vernacular art forms.47 In addition, Allen’s insights regarding the influence of eighteenth-century masking and carnival (especially the northeastern African American festival called Pinkster) and of nineteenth-century festival, street, and mob actions, directly illuminate minstrelsy’s creole social roots. And his clearly articulated analysis, based in Foucault and Bakhtin, of the “pleasure principle” and bodily anxiety that participatory theatrical performances enabled—the degree to which idioms like blackface and burlesque elicited physical and kinesthetic responses—is central to the present study.

William J. Mahar’s Behind the Burnt Cork Mask: Early Blackface Minstrelsy and Antebellum American Popular Culture is one of the standard contemporary texts on minstrelsy and represents solid and detailed musicological scholarship.48 Mahar deals primarily with the antebellum minstrel troupes, and less with the soloists Rice and Dixon (and their inspirations) who preceded them. Mahar’s demonstration of the parodic light-classical sources of many minstrel texts and theatrical entertainments, and consequently of minstrelsy’s shared roots in European music-theatrical idioms already extant circa 1800, thus parallels Cockrell’s situation of blackface’s shared roots in European carnival.

W. T. Lhamon Jr.’s Raising Cain: Blackface Performance from Jim Crow to Hip Hop is the most far-reaching, if idiosyncratic, exploration of minstrelsy since Lott’s Love and Theft, and Lhamon’s background in literary criticism and culture studies equips him well to address its semiotic implications. His key intuition is that there are aspects of African American performance aesthetics (garb, body vocabularies especially dance, and terminology especially as regards expressive taste) that have been remarkably consistent and resilient—forming what Lhamon calls elsewhere lore cycles—through all the epochs of African American culture.49 The clarity and readability of Lhamon’s prose, his obvious engagement with and love for the repertoires, and his command of the earliest primary sources make his linking of minstrelsy, vaudeville, “coon” shows, film, and MTV video immediate and compelling. (p.230) But Raising Cain is best understood as a Derridean deconstruction of minstrelsy: one individual’s avowedly personal and idiosyncratic reading of the idiom’s semiotic connotations.

Lhamon’s particularly valuable contribution is to recognize topographical, geographic, linguistic, ethnic, bodily, choreographic, and cognitive boundary zones as providing liminal spaces in which identity, class, and social power could be contested and negotiated through ritualized performance—and to recognize that, in all the epochs of American popular musics, African American performance has been a vehicle for such renegotiation. Like Lott, he offers a sophisticated reading of minstrelsy’s meaning to its audience, and identifies blackface as a tool white working-class youths deployed to simultaneously distance themselves from those immediately below them on the economic ladder, aspire to higher status, and critique that higher status. His semiotic analysis of minstrelsy’s sound and physical vocabulary, its transgressive connotations, and its recurrence throughout U.S. popular music history, is poetic and persuasive but does not address the performance experience that ignited the blackface audience. He does, however, provide an argument through which blackface minstrels can be claimed as the first urban ethnomusicologists.50 Lhamon’s contribution to this book is epitomized in the following quotation, in which he identifies the improvisational, participatory practice that he intuitively recognizes: “Assembling Jim Crow … was hardly a sudden or whimsical event. Figuring out Jim Crow was a process, a practice, evolving for years over considerable territory.”51

Lhamon’s 2003 Jump Jim Crow: Lost Plays, Lyrics, and Street Prose of the First Atlantic Popular Culture provides a massive compilation of dozens of playscripts and hundreds of song texts; it may be thought of as the companion to his Raising Cain. Most useful for the present study is the lengthy introduction in Jump Jim Crow, which provides an effective and relatively succinct summary of Lhamon’s perspectives. His fundamental thesis, and his argument for minstrelsy’s continued relevance to U.S. cultural studies, is that the Jim Crow plays exemplify working-class resistance.52 His detailed biographical sketch of T. D. Rice, for example, emphasizes Rice’s earlier experience on the U.S. frontiers playing stock comic and ethnic characters and links to Cockrell’s discussion of the early minstrels’ transgressive lineage.53

Lhamon provides a nuanced analysis of black identity in the New World as a construction synthesizing pan-Afro-Caribbean elements.54 Applying this sort of analysis to Mount’s media—considering the factual immediacy of his experience of black-white musical interaction in both rural and urban contexts, and considering musicological analysis of his visual observation—permits (p.231) a new contribution to the literature on minstrelsy. These works reveal the breadth, range, and reach of African American approaches into a range of white cultural situations and provide a way of looking at black infiltration into white culture that is simultaneously musically accurate but that is not limited to verbal description or standard musical notation.

John Strasbaugh’s Black Like You: Blackface, Whiteface, Insult and Imitation in American Popular Culture, like Tosches’s Country, its spiritual forefather, is a collection of informal essays written for a nonspecialist audience.55 Strasbaugh articulates the argument made more rigorously by Cockrell, Lott, Lhamon, and Mahar: that blackface masking, throughout all the epochs of U.S. history, as in its earlier European Renaissance and medieval manifestations, cannot be simply understood as pure racist caricature. Strasbaugh is useful in delineating the recurrence of the “blackface impulse” toward masking and ethnic parody that has effectively blurred class, race, and power boundaries in all periods of American popular culture, and his insight that “imitation plays a large role in how American culture is formed” is astute.56 He also provide a concise and effective summary of blackface’s long twilight retention in nooks and crannies of U.S. popular culture (fraternities, social organizations, festivals) and a long and effective exegesis of blackface elements in later fictional creations such as Uncle Tom, Topsy, and Uncle Remus.57

Performance Scholarship

Gerald Jonas’s Dancing: The Pleasure, Power, and Art of Movement represents a small body of scholarly literature that is particularly significant here because of its detailed, consistent, and methodical performance analysis of dance and its semiotic meanings.58 Jonas is especially useful for his clear articulations of the ways that the visual iconography of dance can reveal aspects of cultural synthesis and experimental identity: he comments directly on such synthesis in minstrelsy’s historical melding of African American and Anglo-Celtic dances, making a particularly elegant analogy between West African aesthetics of “cool” and the Renaissance European sprezzatura.59 He is also particularly effective at tying innovations and new fashions in dance style to contemporaneous cultural, social, and political trends—thus providing a particularly important analytical perspective for this book.

Some of the most directly relevant scholarship on the dance elements of minstrelsy’s popularity comes from African—rather than U.S.—music specialists. For example, William P. Murphy significantly enriches and grounds insights about blackface’s transgressive elements when he describes African (p.232) dance as “a visible and invisible dialectic of power,” pointing out that, in Mende society, “both an intricate dance step and an extraordinary political performance … evoke the wonder of a secret source of transformative power generating astonishing public effects.”60 Similarly, like Murphy’s, Judith Lynne Hanna’s insights, as an anthropologist specializing in African dance, are particularly useful.61

Marian Hannah Winter’s “American Theatrical Dancing from 1750–1800” (1938) is an important forerunner to her 1947 essay on the Long Island–born African American dancer William Henry “Juba” Lane, and it exhibits the unique strengths that still make that later article an important foundation for a study of blackface performance.62 Winter’s close survey of primary sources confirms the exchange between various forms of Continental, Caribbean, Anglo-Celtic, and African American “characteristic dance” in the colonial United States—a stylistic exchange whose detailed analysis has largely eluded later scholarship. She points out that not only African American but also Anglo-Irish dancing were regularly imitated as part of urban theatrical entertainments—that imitation of these characteristic dances was central to vernacular theater long before minstrelsy began. Winter’s essay becomes another confirmation that an imitative creole exchange was already occurring on the streets and in the working-class theatrical idioms of the new nation, long before the Virginia Minstrels in the early 1840s. This is an important foundation for the present study because it broaches the possibility of a much earlier and more widespread choreological component to the blackface synthesis than later scholarship identifies.

Henry T. Sampson’s Blacks in Blackface: A Source Book on Early Black Musical Shows provides a needed corrective to the neglect of the African presence in early minstrelsy.63 In a compendium of primary sources similar to Epstein’s, Winter’s, and Southern’s, Sampson gives detailed biographical information on a number of significant African American musicians of the pre–Civil War period. However, due to the nature of his sources (playbills, unpublished autobiographical recollections, newspapers, and other public documents), and his emphasis on shows rather than on soloists, Sampson is uninformative regarding the earliest 1820s–30s performers from whom Dixon and Rice appear to have derived their repertoire and performance practice.

Thomas F. DeFrantz’s edited volume, Dancing Many Drums: Excavations in African American Dance, includes a few items relevant to the current study. In his own essay, DeFrantz provides a good summary of terminological shifts in dance scholarship and the ways they reflect on development of black studies and related disciplines since the 1960s.64 P. Sterling Stuckey’s “Christian (p.233) Conversion and the Challenge of Dance” provides a thoughtful discussion of the implications of the “African body” as it has been appropriated, imitated, depicted, and distorted in U.S. popular culture, and of the “body knowledge” that dance inculcates but that has been resistant to traditional functionalist or text-based analysis.65 Samuel A. Floyd Jr.’s “African American Dance and Music” is primarily a summary of African American scholarship (including his own) on dance, but he does make the insightful observation that “patting juba” is best described as dance, rather than as merely accompaniment to dance.66 This insight is important in considering the subtler African musical details in Mount’s dance iconography.

Lynne Faulkey Emery’s Black Dance in the United States from 1619 to 1970 complements Epstein and Malone by providing a useful and detailed summary of early references to African American dance in popular literature. The rich material she supplies includes, for example, Nicholas Cresswell’s 1774 descriptions of banjo playing, singing and dancing in colonial Maryland; the observations of Dutch burghers traveling to see Negro dances in Pennsylvania and New York State, and of the seminal black dancers of Long Island, Albany, and Manhattan’s theaters and Catherine Market.67 Emery’s expertise in dance idioms in turn permits interesting and relevant deductions regarding the early choreographic synthesis of African American and Anglo-Celtic dancing and thus provides useful tools for the present study.

Michael D. Harris in Colored Pictures: Race and Visual Representation explores ways in which musicology that seeks to relate cultural context to musical content must draw on analytical techniques, terminology, or methodologies from outside the realm of traditional musical analysis; his is thus an important philosophical rationale for this book.68 He points out that because there is already a sophisticated and effective analytical method for looking at the “iconography of the black body” in American popular culture, there is no need for us to invent an idiosyncratic, less-sophisticated repetition of it.

Taken as a whole, the existing scholarship on minstrelsy provides essential foundations in methodology, analytical perspectives, and interpretive techniques, but crucial lacunae exist. These lacunae lie specifically in the areas of improvisation; performance practice; the Afro-Caribbean as opposed to European performance traditions that were simultaneously minstrelsy’s central sources and most powerful attractors for a white audience; iconography; and the actual sound and participatory experience of the idiom as performance. This book addresses those gaps. (p.234)


(1.) Some of the material contained in this section may be familiar to readers; it is offered here in order to fill out the picture of minstrelsy scholarship, and perhaps further enrich the knowledge of those readers already familiar with it. Hans Nathan, Dan Emmett and the Rise of Early Negro Minstrelsy, 2nd. ed. (Norman: University of Oklahoma, 1977).

(2.) Dale Cockrell, Demons of Disorder: Blackface Minstrels and Their World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997); Eric Lott, Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993); W. T. Lhamon Jr., Raising Cain: Blackface Performance from Jim Crow to Hip Hop (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2000); William J. Mahar, Behind the Burnt Cork Mask: Early Blackface Minstrelsy and Antebellum American Popular Culture (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1998).

(3.) Robert Carlin, The Birth of the Banjo: Joel Walker Sweeney and Early Minstrelsy (New York: McFarland, 2007), 19.

(p.293) (4.) These phenomena not only recur in later popular-music syntheses but have also been not entirely absent from the history of more “formal” ethnomusicology.

(5.) Ethnomusicology itself is inevitably and universally an act of translation, historically enacted by an “observer” who travels “elsewhere” to witness “informants” making music as part of culture, and who then returns, eventually to explain—to translate—to outsiders something of the music’s structure, function, and meaning in its original contexts. This is, at base, what ethnomusicology does. Ethnomusicology has sometimes yielded not only intellectual insight but also cultural exploitation; sometimes, conversely and more constructively, ethnomusicological scholarship has represented not only career advancement but also cross-cultural enrichment. The discipline in its best manifestations has enriched not only the opportunistic scholar’s pocketbook, publication record, or curriculum vita, but also the dominant culture’s artistic resources—and even, sometimes, the minority informants’ economic opportunities.

(6.) Many but not all of these Long Island Museum of American Art, History, and Carriages (hereafter LIM) materials originate in bequests by Ward Melville and his estate, in the Kate Strong Historical Library, Hawkins-Mount Family Papers at the LIM.

(7.) An example of artwork not held by LIM is the Banjo Player, held instead in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, from which it seldom tours.

(8.) But see Patricia Cline Cohen, with Timothy J. Gilfoyle and Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz, The Flash Press: Sporting Male Weeklies in 1840s New York (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008), for commentary from the flash press.

(9.) See Shane White, “A Question of Style: Blacks in and Around New York City in the Late 18th Century,” Journal of American Folklore 102/403 (January–March 1989): 33–34, for De Voe’s commentary on African American hair styles, which informs my discussion of Micah Hawkins’s The Saw-Mill (chapter 3); Shane White, “Pinkster: Afro-Dutch Syncretization in New York City and the Hudson Valley,” Journal of American Folklore 102/403 (January–March 1989): 74, for De Voe on slaves harvesting and selling street food on the Lower East Side; Kevin M. Scott, “Rituals of Race: Mount, Melville, and Antebellum America,” PhD diss., Purdue University, 2004, 51ff, for De Voe on black farmers from Long Island, including Ned Francis and “Bobolink” Bob Rowley, in Lower Manhattan; see Lhamon, Raising Cain, 9, for De Voe on dancers engaged by merchants to attract trade.

(10.) Noah M. Ludlow, Dramatic Life as I Found It: A Record of Personal Experience (St Louis: Ludlow, 1880; reprint New York: Benjamin Blom, 1966).

(11.) See Elizabeth Johns, “The Farmer in the Works of William Sidney Mount,” in “The Evidence of Art: Images and Meaning in History,” special issue, Journal of Interdisciplinary History 17/1 (summer 1986): 257–81.

(13.) See, for example, E. P. Thompson, “Rough Music Reconsidered,” Folklore 103/1 (1992): 3–26.

(p.294) (15.) See Cockrell, Demons of Disorder, 33–37; and Dale Cockrell, “Jim Crow: Demon of Disorder,” American Music 14/2 (summer 1996): 168; also Nathan, Dan Emmett and the Rise of Early Negro Minstrelsy, 118.

(17.) This in turn has occasionally elicited rather biased critique that ignores the scope and value of Cockrell’s contribution; see Thomas DeFrantz, review of Cockrell, Demons of Disorder, TDR (1988-) 44/3 (autumn 2000): 184–85.

(18.) See, for example, William J. Mahar, “Black English in Early Blackface Minstrelsy: A New Interpretation of the Sources of Minstrel Show Dialect,” American Quarterly 37/2 (summer 1983), which analysis of blackface texts as transcriptions of “black English vernacular” is particularly effective in this area, because it seeks to work backward from texts in order to recover sound. However, Mahar’s study does not contain musicological, iconographic, or performance analysis.

(20.) The connections between these characters are not imagined: literary critic Henry Louis Gates Jr. describes the 1932 Our Gang/Little Rascals film Spanky, which contains a comic restaging of the novel, and in which actor Matthew “Stymie” Beard cross-dressed as both Topsy and Uncle Tom. See Henry Louis Gates and Hollis Robbins, eds., The Annotated Uncle Tom’s Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe (New York: W. W. Norton, 2007), xi.

(21.) This archetype enters the American semiotic landscape in the personae of the semi-mythical Ohio River keelboatman Mike Fink (b. 1770/1780?–ca. 1823), actor Fess Parker’s (1924–2010) film portrayal of Daniel Boone (1734–1820), or, for that matter, Jimi Hendrix’s (1942–70) 1968 “Voodoo Chile,” as in the careers of a “white boy playing the blues,” such as vaudevillian Emmett Miller (1900–1962), R&B artists Mac Rebennack/Dr. John (b. 1940) and Johnny Otis (b. 1921), and blues guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan (1954–1990).

(22.) For “lore cycles,” see Lhamon, Raising Cain, 281.

(24.) William J. Mahar, “‘Backside Albany’ and Early Blackface Minstrelsy: A Contextual Study of America’s First Blackface Song,” American Music 6/1 (spring 1988): 1–17.

(25.) Thomas DeFrantz goes so far as to say that Cockrell’s Demons of Disorder and Bean, Hatch, and McNamara’s edited volume Inside the Minstrel Mask (which includes essays by Mahar, Cockrell, Lott, Lhamon, and number of other principal scholars) “all but ignore the African-derived performance imperatives that white minstrels imitated.” Thomas F. DeFrantz, ed., Dancing Many Drums: Excavations in African American Dance (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2002), 185. Mahar, in contrast, acknowledges that “there is every reason to believe that [Micah] Hawkins was familiar with other black performers in New York City and rural Long Island.” Mahar, “‘Backside Albany’ and Early Blackface Minstrelsy,” 184.

(26.) Dena J. Epstein, Sinful Tunes and Spirituals: Black Folk Music to the Civil War (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1977, rev. ed. 2003).

(p.295) (27.) Robert Winans, “Early Minstrel Show Music 1843–1852,” in Inside the Minstrel Mask: Readings in Nineteenth-Century Blackface Minstrelsy, ed. Annemarie Bean, James V. Hatch, and Brooks McNamara, 114–62 (Hanover, N.H.: Wesleyan University Press, 1996).

(28.) Saxton’s “Blackface Minstrelsy,” which is excerpted from his larger The Rise and Fall of the White Republic, echoes Lott, Lhamon, and Cockrell when he observes that the “bohemianism of the entertainment world” was a powerful attraction for several of the early blackface minstrels. Alexander Saxton, “Blackface Minstrelsy,” in Inside the Minstrel Mask, 69.

(29.) The passage is worth citing at greater length, as Frankenstein recognizes the interrelated nature of Mount’s interests, saying “Mount the inventor is inseparable from Mount the musician. At Stony Brook there is a vast amount of music in his hand. … The pieces involved are all dance tunes—waltzes, polkas, jigs, marches, schottisches—adapted to the fiddle. … Some typical Mountian fiddle tunes appear in the letters that passed between William and Robert [yet] all in all, William Sidney Mount is not a milestone in American musical creativity.” Alfred Frankenstein, William Sidney Mount (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1975), 80ff, emphasis added.

(30.) A partial exception to this is Scott, “Rituals of Race,” which provides a useful close reading of race and class symbolism in Mount’s paintings, and links this reading effectively to contemporaneous trends in politics and the arts. However, because Scott’s method proceeds from culture studies and iconography, he does not address the kinesthetic and musicological information the works contain, or the insights they provide about nineteenth-century music-making and the creole synthesis.

(31.) See Catherine A. Shoup, “Scottish Social Dancing and the Formation of Community,” in “Communities of Practice: Traditional Music and Dance,” special issue, Western Folklore 60/2–3 (spring–summer, 2001): 140. Though Shoup is describing a different dance tradition, the term centripetal aptly confirms the inward-directed social cohesion that group dance can elicit.

(32.) There are many examples, found throughout the creole Caribbean, of Anglo-European music and dance forms being imitated, borrowed, mutated, and caricatured by Afro-Caribbean performers; the cakewalk craze of the 1890s is only a late, and particularly visible, manifestation of a much older parodic tradition. See Brooke Baldwin, “The Cakewalk: A Study in Stereotype and Reality,” Journal of Social History 15 (1981/2).

(33.) David Cassedy, William Sidney Mount: Works in the Collections of the Museums at Stony Brook (New York: Museums at Stony Brook, June 1983). The LIM collections include not just primary sources on Mount, but also copies of much of the secondary sources, reaching back to the 1920s.

(34.) W. T. Lhamon Jr., “Every Time I Wheel About I Jump Jim Crow: Cycles of Minstrel Transgression from Cool White to Vanilla Ice,” in Inside the Minstrel Mask, 276, 278.

(p.296) (35.) Barbara Lewis, “Daddy Blues: The Evolution of the Dark Dandy,” in Inside the Minstrel, 257–74.

(36.) Marian Hannah Winter, “Juba and American Minstrelsy,” in Inside the Minstrel Mask, 223–44.

(37.) See also Marian Hannah Winter, “American Theatrical Dancing from 1750 to 1800,” Musical Quarterly 24/1 (January 1938): 223.

(38.) William J. Mahar, “Ethiopian Skits and Sketches: Contents and Contexts of Blackface Minstrelsy, 1840–1890,” in Inside the Minstrel Mask, 179, 180.

(39.) Eileen Southern, “Black Musicians and Early Ethiopian Minstrelsy,” in Inside the Minstrel Mask, 56–57, 61–62.

(40.) Southern overstates and oversimplifies, for example, when she says, “It is common knowledge that the white entertainers obtained their materials from blacks by listening to the songs and impersonating them” (43). Of course this is true, but the statement is incomplete: blackface performers did more than only “impersonate” (though this term itself has very complicated connotations, more effectively analyzed by Lott and Lhamon); if this were true, then blackface imitations of African American performance should have been accurate replications, a presumption that Southern’s scholarship vehemently denies.

(41.) W. T. Lhamon Jr., Jump Jim Crow: Lost Plays, Lyrics, and Street Prose of the First Atlantic Popular Culture (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2003).

(43.) Peter Guralnick, Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm and Blues and the Southern Dream of Freedom (Boston: Back Bay Books, 1999).

(44.) This is particularly evident in those sections of Love and Theft in which he cites Richard Middleton and Fredric Jameson—two literary theorists—to describe the “musematic” versus “discursive” mutations of musical repetition (41, 94). This awkward adaptation of inapposite analytical methods to identify the participatory, experiential, bodily attraction of African American music making is not particularly effective.

(45.) Eric Lott, “Blackface and Blackness: The Minstrel Show in American Culture,” in Inside the Minstrel Mask, 3–34.

(46.) Robert G. Allen, Horrible Prettiness: Burlesque and American Culture (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1991), 170.

(47.) In ibid., Allen writes about the relationship between cultural tropes and political power: “Cultural production does not occur on even terms among groups within society. Because society is ordered in terms of power relations …, cultural production expresses these relations” (31).

(50.) In Raising Cain, Lhamon says performances by blackface minstrels “provided a frisson of danger and supposed authenticity … embodying the urban margin quite as much as they were evoking the plantation” (158, emphasis added). S. White confirms the likelihood that northern or urban black culture was the likelier source of minstrelsy’s imitation: “Many of the constituent elements of the minstrel show may (p.297) have had their origins in white observations of northern black culture, particularly as displayed in the slave festivals and, later in the nineteen century, in the cities.” Shane White, “‘It Was a Proud Day’: African Americans, Festivals, and Parades in the North, 1741–1834,” Journal of American History 81/1 (June 1994): 26, emphasis added.

(52.) In ibid., Lhamon says they “display how politically disfranchised and economically excluded Americans have long felt attraction for black ways of moving through trouble” (x).

(54.) Ibid., 4.

(55.) John Strasbaugh, Black Like You: Blackface, Whiteface, Insult and Imitation in American Popular Culture (New York: Tarcher, 2006). Nick Tosches, Country: The Twisted Roots of Rock ’n’ Roll (New York: Da Capo, 1996).

(56.) Ibid., 33.

(57.) Ibid., 146–49ff.

(58.) Gerald Jonas, Dancing: The Pleasure, Power, and Art of Movement (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1992). Also included in this small body of effective dance anthropologies on parallel genres might be Jane K. Cowan, Dance and the Body Politic in Northern Greece (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1990); Judith Lynne Hanna, To Dance Is Human: A Theory of Nonverbal Communication (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987); Barbara Browning, Samba: Resistance in Motion (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995); Yvonne Daniels, Dance and Social Change in Contemporary Cuba (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995); and perhaps Jason Berry, Jonathan Foose, and Tad Jones, Up from the Cradle of Jazz: New Orleans Music Since World War II (Lafayette: University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press, 2009), and Christopher Waterman, Juju: A Social History and Ethnography of an African Popular Music (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990).

(60.) William P. Murphy, “The Sublime Dance of Mende Politics: An African Aesthetic of Charismatic Power,” American Ethnologist 25/4 (November 1988): 564, 567.

(61.) See Judith Lynne Hanna, chapter 8, “The Urban Ecosystem of Dance,” in To Dance Is Human: A Theory of Nonverbal Communication (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1979), 171.

(62.) Marian Hannah Winter, “American Theatrical Dancing from 1750–1800,” Musical Quarterly 43/1 (January 1938): 58–73. See also Marian Hannah Winter, “Juba and American Minstrelsy,” in Chronicles of the American Dance: From the Shakers to Martha Graham, ed. Paul Magriel (New York: Dance Index, 1948; reprint New York: Da Capo Press, 1978).

(63.) Henry T. Sampson, Blacks in Blackface: A Source Book on Early Black Musical Shows (Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1980).

(64.) See Thomas F. DeFrantz, “African American Dance: A Complex History,” in Dancing Many Drums, 3–38.

(p.298) (65.) Sterling Stuckey, “Christian Conversion and the Challenge of Dance,” in Dancing Many Drums, 39–58.

(66.) Samuel A. Floyd Jr., “African American Dance and Music,” in Dancing Many Drums, 119. Northrup provides a detailed physical description of the technique in 1840s Louisiana. Solomon Northrup, Twelve Years a Slave, the Narrative of Solomon Northup, a citizen of New-York, kidnapped in Washington city in 1841, and rescued in 1853, from a cotton plantation near the Red River in Louisiana (Buffalo, N.Y.: Derby, Orton and Mulligan, 1853), 219; at http://books.google.com/, accessed November 7, 2010.

(67.) Lynne Faulkey Emery, Black Dance in the United States from 1619 to 1970 (Palo Alto, Calif.: National Press Books, 1972), 140, 141–42.

(68.) Michael D. Harris, Colored Pictures: Race and Visual Representation (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003).