Arts and Entertainment

Performing Arts

What dominated the presentation of early blackface minstrels?

White performers such as Thomas “Daddy” Rice and George Washington Dixon popularized blackface characters as early as the 1820s and 1830s. In 1843 Dan Emmett and his Virginia Minstrels appeared on stage, and blackface characters became a vital part of shows later dubbed minstrels. These popular early minstrel shows were those that showcased whites with burnt-cork-darkened faces to achieve the visible image that they desired. The shows intended to imitate Southern blacks as whites saw them, not by black realities. The performers combined acting, singing, dancing, and other forms of entertainment. They depicted blacks as lazy, stupid, and happy, and their speech patterns and behavior ridiculed them more. Shows with whites in blackface lost their popularity during the Civil War and were replaced by black minstrels who perpetuated the negative images already seen on the stage.


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