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Minstrel Shows...Then and Now

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Ben Cunningham

on 31 March 2011

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Transcript of Minstrel Shows...Then and Now

Minstrel Shows...Then and Now
By Sarah, Keaton, and Ben What are minstrel shows?

Musical entertainment shows in the 19th century.

White men covered their bodies with burnt cork, pretending to be slaves dancing and singing.

Blacks were portrayed as bafoons singing and dancing their problems away.

It minimilized the horrible life-style that black people had to endure.

SAD BUT TRUE: minstrelsy was America’s first original theater.
History of Minstrel Shows

Black face performences had been popular since the early 1790s
It became much more popular in 182o with the creation of Jim Crow.
Thomas "Daddy" Rice put on burnt cork and performed the song "Jump Jim Crow"
Jim Crow soon became a staple character in Minstrel shows. In the 1880, that name almost became synonymus with Minstrel shows.
Historians say that the beginning of Minstrel shows officially started in February 1843 with the performance of Dan Emmett's Virginia Minstrels at the New York's Bowery Amphitheatre.
It consisted of four actors: Emmett, Frank Bower, Frank Pelham and Billy Whitlock
Their performance consisted of song, dance, and comical bits with cartoonish black characters. Some Shocking facts about the history
The performances peaked AFTER the Civil War.
Both black and white people were involved in the shows, and into the 20th century women became a part of Minstrel shows.
No one really considered these shows to be racist at the time. These are three staple characters The stereotypical carefree slave The joyous musician A free man trying to higher his status. What does this have to do with Huck Finn?
Mark Twain was actually a huge advocate for the Minstrel shows.
Mark Twain even performed in a Minstrel show in 1882, working with Gerogre Washington Cable and Joel Chandler Harris.
Minstrelsy was at its peak when Mark was writing Huck Finn. It seemed to influence his writing.
Jim's dialect and style seems to be just like the Minstrel Show characters.
Huck even seems like he speaks more correctly when talking to Jim. This gives more of a contrast between the twos speech pattern. Just like in many Minstrel shows where an eloquent white male would talk to one of the black-faced characters. More relationships with Minstrel Shows.
The creation of Jim is a lot like Minstrelsy. The artist used a white boy to draw Jim. It is a lot like a drawing of black face.
One of the main focuses of many Minstrel Shows is the Pre-Civil War South. The novel also is set before the war.
The king and the duke in the novel are similar to portions of minstrel shows. They performed a scene from Shakespeare and in minstrel shows performers would perform serious scenes but performed them in a way that was meant to make people laugh. Modern Controversies
Few people are taught about this subject now.
We are embarrassed of this part of American History.
Controversies lie in the history of it. Not the actual imitation. Similarities in Dialogue
I read considerable to Jim about kings and dukes and earls and such, and how king, but they took and shut him up in jail, and some say he died there.

"Po' little chap."

"But some says he got out and got away, and come to America."

"Dat's good! But he'll be pooty lonesome -- dey ain' no kings here, is dey, Huck?"

"No."

"Den he cain't git no situation. What he gwyne to do?"

"Well, I don't know. Some of them gets on the police, and some of them learns people how to talk French."

"Why, Huck, doan' de French people talk de same way we does?"

"No, Jim; you couldn't understand a word they said -- not a single word."

"Well, now, I be ding-busted! How do dat come?"

"I don't know; but it's so. I got some of their jabber out of a book. S'pose a man was to come to you and say Polly-voo-franzy -- what would you think?"

"I wouldn' think nuff'n; I'd take en bust him over de head -- dat is, if he warn't white. I wouldn't 'low no nigger to call me dat."

"Shucks, it ain't calling you anything. It's only saying, do you know how to talk French?"

"Well, den, why couldn't he say it?"

"Why, he is a-saying it. That's a Frenchman's way of saying it."


Interlocutor. What are you thinking about, Mr. Bones? What is there on your mind this evening?

Bones. I was jis' thinking 'bout dat business I was in some time ago. I started in de -- what you call dat business dat da hab free balls hanging out?

Interlocutor. Oh, you mean the pawnbroker.

Bones. Yes, I was a pawnbroker wen I went in de bis, but I was a dead broaker wen I came out.

Interlocutor. Let us hear of your experience as a pawnbroker.

Bones. Well, having nofing to do I fout I'd start de broaking business; so I rented a room, got free balls what I found laying around loose in a ten pin alley, and hung 'em out.

Interlocutor. And what success did you have?

Bones. I'll tell you. De fust man dat cum in had a big paper bundel under his arm; he looked all around, den begin to open de bundel, den he look all around agin.

Interlocutor. He was suspicious, I suspect.

Bones. Spec he was. At las' he open de bundel and took out a ole hammer, an' wanted two dollars on it.

Interlocutor. And what did you do about it then?

Bones Hammered him over de head wid a club. De next one dat come in was a Dutchman, wid a big hunk of Limburger cheese in his hand. He wanted to pawn it.

http://chnm.gmu.edu/courses/jackson/minstrel/minstrel.html http://chnm.gmu.edu/courses/jackson/minstrel/minstrel.html http://etext.virginia.edu/railton/huckfinn/huckpix/huckpix.html http://etext.virginia.edu/railton/huckfinn/huckpix/huckpix.html http://www.facebook.com/album.php?id=1367972462&aid=66925
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