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Birth of An Industry: Blackface Minstrelsy and the Rise of American Animation

Nicholas Sammond, Author

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Introduction, Page 18

What performers in 1840, 1910, 1969, and 2010 have in common—beyond their individual and distinct modes of performance and their likely quite disparate intents—is a recourse to a shared fantasy of blackness as a primal realm and force. 

The idea of the "black fantastic," as the late Richard Iton called it, is itself located in and around the profound importance of the black/white binary to the production and regulation of relations of power in the United States. In moments such as in the highly charged debates over the election (and reelection) of Barack Obama, or in the aftermath of George Zimmerman's acquittal in the killing of Trayvon Martin, these fantasies of blackness and whiteness circulate freely, producing meaning, too often with fatal results. Obama's blackness was treated as permission for racist fantasies that he was in fact from Africa, therefore ineligible to be President of the United States. Martin's stigmatization as a black youth, hence necessarily violent and dangerous, followed him beyond the grave, as in this shooting range target invoking the hoody he was wearing when he was gunned down.

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