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Ring Shout, Wheel AboutThe Racial Politics of Music and Dance in North American Slavery$
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Katrina Dyonne Thompson

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780252038259

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252038259.001.0001

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“Dance you damned niggers, dance”

(p.69) 3 Onstage
Ring Shout, Wheel About

Katrina Dyonne Thompson

University of Illinois Press

This chapter examines the persistence of coerced performances, this time on stage, throughout plantation communities, small farms, and some urban communities. Drawing on slave narratives, travel journals, planter's writings, and publications, it shows how the erroneous perceptions of race in the United States were staged within the performing arts. It describes coercion and expectation to perform as an important component of the institution of slavery. Whites continually asserted negative racial stereotypes concerning music and dance while constantly forcing the slaves to perform. The chapter considers how these onstage performances veiled white fears of black rebellion while portraying a paternalistic society to Northerners, European observers, and abolitionists. It argues that the racial imagery within these public performances exhibited blacks' role as submissive in society while whites, the audience, remained superior.

Keywords:   coerced performances, plantation communities, performing arts, slavery, racial stereotypes, music, slaves, onstage performances, blacks, whites

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