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Rethinking American Music$
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Tara Browner and Thomas L. Riis

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780252042324

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.5622/illinois/9780252042324.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM ILLINOIS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.illinois.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Illinois University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in ISO for personal use.date: 18 September 2021

Defying Boundaries and Escaping Stereotypes

Defying Boundaries and Escaping Stereotypes

African American Entertainers in the Late Nineteenth Century

(p.200) 9 Defying Boundaries and Escaping Stereotypes
Rethinking American Music

Thomas L. Riis

University of Illinois Press

Riis takes up the complicated conventions and troubled history of late-nineteenth-century blackface minstrelsy as it was blended and interwoven into the activities among a largely unknown contingent of thousands of African American (and mostly midwestern) musicians and entertainers. He explores how nineteenth-century entertainers understood their business, including the moniker “minstrel” itself, and what for them constituted original, creative work. In this essay, the questions of identity have less to do with personal stories than the importance of the group and how its activities have been lost to history. Knowledge of these forgotten show people, and the sources where more information about them might be found, can help us combat the persistence of degrading stereotypes used to provide oversimplified explanations of black musical and theatrical activity.

Keywords:   Blackface, Minstrel, minstrel show, African American entertainers, group identity, stereotypes

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