Minstrel Shows

Topics: Minstrel show, Blackface, Slavery in the United States Pages: 2 (540 words) Published: September 18, 2012
Minstrel Shows
A minstrel show also called minstrelsy was an American entertainment with-holding comic skits, variety acts, dancing, and music, performed by white people with a blackface or, especially after the Civil War, black people with a black face. A man named Edwin Pearce Christy founded the Christy Minstrels basically setting out the plan and plot for the shows.

Minstrel shows ridiculed black people, making jokes and other musicals about them. They portrayed black people as dim-witted, lazy, buffoonish, superstitious, happy-go-lucky and musical. The typical minstrel performance followed a three-act plot structure. They first danced onto stage then exchanged wisecracks and sang songs. The second part featured a variety of entertainments, such as the funny stump speech. The final act consisted of a slapstick musical plantation skit or a send-up of a popular play. The "father of American minstrelsy" was Thomas Dartmouth "Daddy" Rice (who in 1828 developed a song-and-dance routine where he impersonated an old, crippled black slave he knew named Jim Crow. Although the minstrel shows were extremely popular, being "consistently packed with families from all walks of life and every ethnic group", they were also controversial. Racial integrationists announced them as falsely showing happy slaves while at the same time making fun of them; segregationists thought such shows were "disrespectful" of social norms, portrayed runaway slaves with sympathy and would undermine the southerners' "peculiar institution".

The Christy Minstrels established the basic structure of the minstrel show in the 1840s. Although white theatrical portrayals of black characters date back to as early as 1604, the minstrel show as such has later origins. By the late 17th century, blackface characters began appearing on the American stage, usually as "servant" types whose roles did little more than provide some element of comic relief. Eventually, similar performers appeared...
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