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Now there are minstrel shows and minstrel shows, but this was a real Minstrsel Show - the best ever seen on any stage in Claremont.
       -The Student Life, January 21 1910


What is a minstrel show?


"Blackface minstrelsy was an established nineteenth-century theatrical practice, principally of the urban North, in which white men caricatured blacks for sport and profit."

“…it was configured at the height of its popularity as a semicircle of four or five or sometimes more white male performers made up with facial blacking of greasepaint or burnt cork and adorned in outrageously oversized and/or ragged “Negro” costumes. Armed with an array of instruments, usually a banjo, fiddle, bone castanets, and tambourine, the performers would stage a tripartite show.

The first part offered up a random selection of songs interspersed with what passed for black wit and japery; the second part(or “olio”) featured a group of novelty performances (comic dialogues, malapropistic “stump speeches,” cross-dressed “wench” performances, and the like); and the third part was a narrative skit, usually set in the South, containing dancing, music, and burlesque.”

-from Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class by Eric Lott

More on Minstrelsy:


What is blackface?


Blackface in the narrow sense is a style of theatrical makeup that originated in the United States, used to take on the appearance of certain archetypes of American racism, especially those of the darky or coon. Blackface in the broader sense includes similarly stereotyped performances even when they do not involve blackface makeup.

(quoted from Wikipedia:




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Learn more about blackface minstrelsy.

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This research was carried out for the  Committee on College Songs by
student Cyrus Winston under the guidance of Professor Kim Bruce and Professor Sidney Lemelle.