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

Nicholas Sammond, Author

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Nineteenth Century Minstrelsy

Blackface minstrelsy as a performance form in the United States is normally dated back to the late 1820s or early 1830s. In these early instances, solo performers such as Dan Emmett or T.D. Rice would perform by themselves or put together troupes for minstrel plays such as Bone Squash Diavolo (1835) or burlesques such as Otello (1838).  For more information on these and other early works, start here.

By the 1840s, travelling minstrel troupes such as the Virginia Minstrels or Christy's Minstrels were very popular. Names that featured southern states, such as the Virginia Minstrels or Georgia Minstrels, were common, whether the performers were from the south or not.

In the 1870s, the popular urban performance form of burlesque, which had some of its roots in minstrelsy, began to give way to its more respectable descendant, vaudeville. Around the same time, blackface minstrelsy began to be absorbed into vaudeville shows, at which point its already nostalgic form of address was heightened by its implicit or explicit references to prewar race relations.
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