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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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Same Script, Different Actors

Same Script, Different Actors

“Eb’ry time I wheel about, I jump Jim Crow”

(p.159) 6 Same Script, Different Actors
Ring Shout, Wheel About

Katrina Dyonne Thompson

University of Illinois Press

This chapter examines the emergence of a distinct American entertainment culture, and specifically how scenes of blacks performing music and dance for whites directly influenced popular culture through the blackface minstrel show, fiction literature, travel narratives, and Southern folklore. It argues that these distorted images were recreated and further developed on the Northern stage through the rise of the American blackface minstrel show in the 1830s. It shows that white men performing in blackface in minstrel shows were mimicking black slaves while black slaves were presenting a facade of black culture that was forced upon them by white masters. Beyond the development of the blackface minstrel show as a major form of entertainment, scenes of enslaved blacks performing became the staple setting for popular fiction as well as proslavery and antislavery texts. This project recognizes blackface minstrelsy as a representation of whites imitating Southern white ideals and images of blackness.

Keywords:   blacks, American entertainment, music and dance, whites, popular culture, minstrel shows, slaves, black culture, blackface minstrelsy, blackness

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