Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD HANDBOOKS ONLINE (www.oxfordhandbooks.com). © Oxford University Press, 2018. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a title in Oxford Handbooks Online for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 20 September 2020

Abstract and Keywords

American minstrelsy or blackface minstrelsy arose in the early nineteenth century as a form of mass entertainment. American minstrelsy was the most influential and long-lived musical-theatrical development in the antebellum period with effects that can be observed in the present. Each form of popular entertainment created in the United States since the early nineteenth century has been touched by it. American minstrelsy was banned or suppressed for its virulent racial stereotyping during the second half of the twentieth century but its elements resurfaced in environments where underclass theatrical expression could come out and be expressed safely in the same venues that encouraged ragtime, jazz, rock-and-roll, and hip-hop. The minstrel show, which by 1844 began adhering to consistent formats and advertising itself as a full night's entertainment, comprised a variety of interwoven elements that include jokes, dances, patter, topical skits, eccentric instruments, sentimental and comic songs, and mimicry of familiar and prominent persons. Folk theatricals or seasonal holiday celebrations with ancient roots also employed blackface performance in unscripted but widely practiced rituals of chaos, such as Mardi Gras or Carnival, where all is topsy-turvy. Blackface minstrelsy grew and changed with a protean character that defies full explanation. It did far more than borrow surface racial features or allow it to be limited to a single signifier.

Keywords: blackface minstrelsy, American minstrelsy, hip-hop, folk theatricals, ragtime, minstrel images

Access to the complete content on Oxford Handbooks Online requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription.

Please subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code.

For questions on access or troubleshooting, please check our FAQs, and if you can''t find the answer there, please contact us.