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May IrwinSinging, Shouting, and the Shadow of Minstrelsy$
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Sharon Ammen

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780252040658

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252040658.001.0001

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The Profoundly Troubling History of the Coon Song

The Profoundly Troubling History of the Coon Song

(p.69) 3 The Profoundly Troubling History of the Coon Song
May Irwin

Sharon Ammen

University of Illinois Press

This chapter explores the origination of the coon song, a ragtime melody mixing jazz and march music and replete with degrading racial stereotypes. May Irwin was the most prominent white female coon shouter. Songs by Stephen Foster and those performed by William Walker and Bert Williams are discussed, as is the nationwide dissemination of sheet music from Tin Pan Alley. The author examines abolitionism and Radical Reconstruction in African American history and the increase of lynchings of African Americans in Jim Crow America. She then looks at the “Greedy Gal” and the “Idealized” and “Pathetic” coon stereotypes of black life.

Keywords:   female coon shouter, Jim Crow, Stephen Foster, Bert Williams, abolitionism, ragtime, Radical Reconstruction, lynching, African American history, sheet music, Tin Pan Alley, racial stereotypes

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