- The Oxford Handbook of Disability History
- The Perils and Promises of Disability Biography
- Disability History and Greco-Roman Antiquity
- Intellectual Disability in the European Middle Ages
- Disability in the Premodern Arab World
- Disability and the History of Eugenics
- Social History of Medicine and Disability History
- Material Culture, Technology, and the Body in Disability History
- Designing Objects and Spaces: A Modern Disability History
- Documents, Ethics, and the Disability Historian
- Disability and Work During the Industrial Revolution in Britain
- Disability and Work in South Asia and the United Kingdom
- Disability and Work in British West Africa
- Race, Work, and Disability in Progressive Era United States
- Organized Labor and Disability in Post–World War II United States
- Deaf-Blindness and the Institutionalization of Special Education in Nineteenth-Century Europe
- Disability and Madness in Colonial Asylum Records in Australia and New Zealand
- Madness, Transnationalism, and Emotions in Nineteenth- and Early Twentieth-Century New Zealand
- Institutions for People with Disabilities in North America
- Picturing Disability in Eighteenth-Century England
- Disability, Race, and Gender on the Stage in Antebellum America
- Polio and Disability in Cold War Hungary
- Monstrous Births, Birth Defects, Unusual Anatomy, and Disability in Europe and North America
- Disability in Modern Chinese Cinema
- Transnational Interconnections in Nineteenth-Century Western Deaf Communities
- The Disability Rights Movement in the United States
- The Rise of Gay Rights and the Disavowal of Disability in the United States
- Disabled Veterans and the Wounds of War
Abstract and Keywords
Antebellum Americans confronted anxieties about many issues, such as industrialization, immigration, and urbanization, that found expression in blackface minstrelsy and freak shows. In these performances, racial fears, gender worries, and the insecurities of an emergent working class combined with the specter of disability to assuage the concerns of white, working-class audiences partly by reinforcing whiteness, masculinity, and nondisability as markers of citizenship. From the “laughable limp” of an elderly, enslaved groom who inspired Thomas “Daddy” Rice to craft his infamous Jim Crow character to displays of the supposedly 161-year-old disabled body of Joice Heth, minstrelsy and freak shows routinely conflated race, gender, and disability on the antebellum stage. This practice reached its pinnacle with Thomas “Japanese Tommy” Dilward, one of only two black men to perform in blackface before the Civil War.
Jenifer L. Barclay is an assistant professor in the Department of History at Washington State University. She is a former predoctoral fellow at the University of Virginia’s Carter G. Woodson Institute for Afro-American and African Studies (2009–2011) and former postdoctoral fellow in African American Studies at Case Western Reserve University (2011–2012).
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