Arts and Entertainment

Performing Arts

When did black minstrel troupes appear?

Black minstrel troupes began to appear in the 1850s, but it was not until after the Civil War that they became established on the American stage. Prevailing segregation laws prevented them from appearing in their natural faces, thus they blackened their faces as well. Although black minstrels inherited the negative stereotypes of blacks that white minstrels had established, the African-American performer won a permanent place on the American stage, providing a training ground for the many black dancers, comedians, singers, and composers to come. Notable among these stage personalities were: dancer-comedians Billy Kersands, Bert Williams, Bob Height, Dewey “Pigmeat” Markham, and Ernest Hogan; singers Gertrude “Ma” Rainey and Bessie Smith; and composers James Bland and William Christopher Handy.


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