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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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“White folks do as they please, and the darkies do as they can”

(p.99) 4 Backstage
Ring Shout, Wheel About

Katrina Dyonne Thompson

University of Illinois Press

This chapter examines how the practice of forcing slaves to perform continued offstage. It looks at the backstage to expose the private world of bondsmen and bondswomen. Through an analysis of slave narratives and autobiographies, it shows how slaves used the performing arts to gain agency and autonomy, create family and community bonds, and preserve homeland cultures while their own unique traditions emerged. It discusses the ways in which music and dance as well as song contributed to the development of a dual world that blacks continually straddled, one side representing entertainment and subjugation and the other symbolizing resistance and an emerging culture. The chapter reveals how blacks manipulated the negativity of the performing arts and transformed their backstage performances into an expression of power.

Keywords:   slaves, performing arts, agency, autonomy, music, song, blacks, resistance, backstage performances, power

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