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date: 19 October 2019

Minstrelsy, Americanlocked

  • Clayton W. Henderson


A type of popular entertainment, principally of the 19th century, which consisted of the theatrical presentation of ostensible elements of black life in song, dance and speech; at first performed by whites impersonating blacks, minstrelsy only later was participated in by blacks. Minstrelsy took the theatrical productions of the Englishman Charles Mathews as one point of departure. Black music and dialect greatly attracted Mathews during his visit to the USA in 1822 and he incorporated the latter element in his skits, sketches, stump speeches and songs. Before Mathews, Charles Dibdin had used black material in his musical extravaganzas, which began in 1768 and were still popular well into the first decade of the 19th century. Southern plantation and frontier songs, black tunes patterned on English musical models, banjo tunes and playing styles, English plays and operas with black subjects and plots, British dance types and tunes and direct observation of blacks constituted other sources and models for early minstrelsy....

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