Archive for the ‘Minstrelsy’ Category


Author: Jason Richards


This project examines how literary uses of blackface minstrelsy both stabilize and destabilize raced and national identities by investigating texts that involve figurative and literal representations of whites in blackface and blacks in whiteface. The narratives I analyze employ minstrelsy not only to create and sustain raced identities, but also to register slippages, overlaps, and inversions across the color line—paradoxically reinforcing and subverting racial hierarchies. I am ultimately concerned with how this paradox reveals the often contradictory nature of American selfhood. By drawing on postcolonial theory to explore how minstrelsy shaped national identity, I have sought to recontextualize blackface, which has remained largely outside discussions of postcoloniality in American studies.READ IT HERE


Author: Robert C. Toll
Source: Journal of the Folklore Institute, vol. 8, n° 1, 1971


The author examines the stereotypical images of slaves in antebellum minstrelsy.

Read the article HERE

Author:  Alexander Saxton

Source:  American Quarterly, vol. 27, Issue 1, March 1975, 3-28




Author: Alexandrina Agloro

Source: Georgetown University’s peer-reviewed Journal of Communication, Culture & Technology (CCT) – Journal Volume XI Issue II Spring 2011



“Coon songs and minstrel shows were at the peak of their popularity in the late-nineteenth century. Blackface minstrelsy and coon songs have since fallen out of factor in the United States, and are now looked up on with disdain and embarrassment. In this essay, I argue that the racial structures of the traditional coon song are updated and reiterated through the “Bed Intruder Song,” mirroring the historical constructions of blackface minstrelsy and coon songs in the early twentieth century. This essay outlines a historical overview of coon songs and how these structures relate to Antoine Dodson, the Gregory Brothers and the American audience’s reception of the “Bed Intruder Song.” By analyzing the “Bed Intruder Song” and online media’s reception of the video, this essay aims to illustrate how, in our “post-racial” moment, we’re not so colorblind.”



Author: Donna-Marie Peters
Source : The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol. 4, n°6, September 2011



This article examines the obstacles faced by rhythm tap to gain artistic acceptance throughout seminal periods of its evolution as an entertainment art form. The legitimating of the art is discussed in consideration of its marginal, historical status and its identification with subservience and the minstrel tradition. This study, based on ethnographic field work and in-depth interviews, describes the 1990’s as a crucial period in community building by rhythm tap artists. This examination sheds light on the purposive actions of tap cultural workers during this period, to finally gain artistic legitimacy for their once dying music/dance art form.



Author: Reebee Garofalo


(excerpt from: Rockin’ Out Popular Music in the USA, Fifth Edition)


“The institution of slavery has been such a defining feature of U.S. history that it is hardly surprising to find the roots of our
popular music embedded in this tortured legacy. Indeed, the first indigenous U.S. popular music to capture the imagination of a broad public, at home and abroad, was blackface minstrelsy, a cultural form involving mostly Northern whites in blackened faces, parodying their perceptions of African American culture. Minstrelsy appeared at a time when songwriting and music publishing were dispersed throughout the country and sound recording had not yet been invented. During this period, there was an important geographical pattern in the way music circulated. Concert music by foreign composers intended for elite U.S. audiences generally played in New York City first and then in other major cities. In
contrast, domestic popular music, including minstrel music, was first tested in smaller towns,then went to larger urban areas, and entered New York only after success elsewhere.
Songwriting and music publishing were similarly dispersed. New York did not become thenerve center for indigenous popular music until later in the nineteenth century, when the previously scattered conglomeration of songwriters and publishers began to converge on the Broadway and 28th Street section of the city, in an area that came to be called Tin Pan Alley after the tinny output of its upright pianos. These talented songwriters and indefatigable publishers, who would go on to dominate mainstream popular music until the post–World War II period, were attuned to every nuance of cultural variation the United States had to offer. And during their reign, they would encounter all of the new technologies—sound recording, talking films, radio, and television—that would come to define mass culture”

Author:  James M. Salem



“The first influence of African American music on American mainstream culture was the minstrel show, which was inspired by black music. Before the popularity of jazz in the 1920s, when African American music exploded on the scene to more widely influence American popular music, a holdover from the minstrel show—the coon song—presents an interesting case study in the role of African American culture’s impact on the mainstream. The coon song emerged as a popular musical phenomenon in the decade of the 1890s, widely considered the nadir of the black experience in America. C. Vann Woodward’s Strange Career of Jim Crow chronicles the “cumulative weakening of resistance to racism” in the decade. [1] In the so-called Gay Nineties southern states disenfranchised black voters with literacy tests and poll taxes, a wave of race violence swept the nation, Plessy v. Ferguson upheld the concept of separate but equal, Jim Crow material culture became part of the American mainstream, and black players were purged from professional baseball. All of this was, historian Nina Silber would say, part of the “1890s cult of Anglo-Saxonism.” [2]

It is not surprising that this era would find the “coon song” so enjoyable. The coon image (blacks as comic, ignorant, lawless, and uninhibited) confirmed in the minds of white Americans after Reconstruction the position of blacks as inferior and subservient. James H. Dorman says in American Quarterly that coon songs featured blacks “as not only ignorant and indolent, but also devoid of honesty or personal honor, given to drunkenness and gambling, utterly without ambition, sensuous, libidinous, even lascivious.” Generally performed in dialect, coon songs employed “catchy’ rhythms,” and were meant to be “hilariously funny.” [3] Russell Sanjeck dates the first use of the term coon—”the now distasteful word in popular music”—as 1834, with the publication of banjo-playing minstrel performer George Washington Dixon’s song “Old Zip Coon.” [4] As a character, Zip Coon was a somewhat scary citified dandy—in stark contrast to his more innocent rural counterpart, Jim Crow. The word coon as a short form for raccoon dates from 1741, and before Dixon’s use of coon it meant a “frontier rustic.” [5] In 1767, a black character named “Raccoon” sang a version of “Yankee Doodle Dandy” in the first British opera published in America. [6] Several generations later in 1840, the Whig party (established to counter the strong presidency exerted by Andrew Jackson) used the raccoon as its political symbol. Coon songs in the 1840s and 50s were merely Whig political songs, but by 1862 the term “had come to mean a Black.” [7] One explanation for this is, according to the American Dictionary of English (1944), that it denoted “the name of the animal which Southern Negroes were supposed to enjoy hunting and eating.” [8] In The Wages of Whiteness, David R. Roediger argues that the term coon, like “buck” and “Mose,” became a racial slur only “gradually.” [9] The Parlor Songs Association also insists that the term was not a racial slur originally but rather “evolved into that” with some additional confusion: some contemporary composers who didn’t know better confused the raccoon with the possum, often using the two animals interchangeably. There is, however, no existing legacy for the “possum song.” [10]”