The Great Show of Minstrelsy

In: Film and Music

Submitted By doe999john
Words 1549
Pages 7
The Great Show of Minstrelsy
The Minstrel Show presented us with a strange, fascinating and awful phenomenon of the twentieth century. It was a genre of music that would make its performers, whether black or white; smear burnt cork on their faces so they would have the appearance of an African American. According to the American Red Star Newspaper, “No matter how dark a person may have been, they still had to apply the black cork to their faces” (Afro). Minstrelsy was a product of its time that brought a new combination of musical individualities together. Minstrel Shows were a combination of singing, moving around, sometimes even dancing, and instrumental music that exemplified the discrimination against African Americans.
Minstrel Shows had qualities that were brought into popular music and made its mark as distinctively American. They had an irreverent attitude that cared very little about the well-mannered society. Minstrel Shows were not for children or elders who believed that it is very important to be polite and elegant in everyday life. The singers sang as though they did not know English very well and as if they were uneducated; this was their way of playing out the African American stereotype of being not very smart and not knowing simple etiquette. In “Dixie” it is clear that Dan Emmett sang as if he were a stereotypical uneducated African American, and sang as if he was a poor speaker that did not know English very well. On the contrary, Campbell says, “Minstrel Shows had a vibrant new sound synthesized from both African music and European traditions” (Campbell, pg. 30). This was evident in the fact that both whites and blacks would enjoy listening to the songs and shows. Many wonder why African Americans enjoyed the music so much when some of the songs or shows poked fun at blacks. It is hard to establish which parts of the songs were European based…...

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