This book examines the process by which racial stereotypes about blacks developed and were perpetuated in music and dance, and particularly in what it calls onstage and backstage performances. It argues that the history of blacks in entertainment, or more specifically blacks as entertainment, contributed to the construction of race and identity for African Americans. To support this argument, the book goes back to the slave society that fostered the first American entertainment venue to challenge the notion that the minstrel shows constituted the first American entertainment genre. It shows that forced performances during slavery not only served as a means for blacks to construct their identity and retain their cultures, but also played a key role in constructing white stereotypes of blacks. These stereotypes of blacks, the book contends, were a reflection of whites' anxieties and their desire to control black bodies while justifying a deplorable institution of racial slavery.
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