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

Nicholas Sammond, Author
Race, page 6 of 25


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Race, Page 221

Trader Mickey's African river adventure appeared year after the release of Trader Horn (1931), a pre-code adventure film and the first non-documentary shot on location in Africa; and Frank Buck's Bring 'Em Back Alive (1932), another "jungle" film based on the popular works animal collector Frank Buck.

Mickey appears to be peddling goods, but which? Perhaps he is a dry-goods merchant, shifting between various colonial outposts. Perhaps, in a darker reading,  Mickey is a slave-trader. A minstrel, neither black nor white, Mickey inhabits a liminal zone, in his body and in space. 

The geography of Trader Mickey blurs the images of the Old South with those of Africa, suggesting the fantastic, transnational blackness at the roots of minstrelsy. As a performative practice, minstrelsy used the ethnographic conceit of being based upon the dances and songs of enslaved Africans on plantations. 

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