Modern Day Minstrelsy

Blackface and Minstrel Shows
• White performers
would blacken
their faces with
burnt cork or
dress in
costumes, and
then perform
songs and skits
that mocked
Americans as
lazy, buffoonish,
superstitious and
Why is Minstrelsy Relevant to
Rock Music?
• Blues musicians such as Big Mama Thornton
and Bessie Smith got their initial start with
Minstrel shows.
Why is Minstrelsy Relevant to
Rock Music?
• . Minstrel shows are a perfect example of
syncretism – “blending of cultures,” that
created a uniquely American music, which still
continues to present day.
• This theme of white appropriation of African
American culture will reappear again and
again throughout the history of American
Does Minstrelsy Exist in the 21st
Spike Lee
• ''A lot of the black programs on television
are minstrel shows, and they are written
by black writers.''
• “My point is that gangsta rappers such as
Dogg Pound, Dr. Dre, and Ice Cube do not
meaningfully represent black life. Instead,
they socially construct a world that is
little different in kind from that created
by the old minstrel show.”
Other Artists Disagree
• Lee's ''better off'' sticking to directing instead of
insulting African American comics. ''With the
most respect I can give him, I think he needs to
back off a little bit,'' Foxx tells ''He 's not
a comedian, and he doesn't know what we do.'’(J.
• Spike can go straight to hell! You can print that. I
am sick of him talking about me, I am sick of him
saying, ‘This is a coon; this is a buffoon.’(T.Perry)
In Living Color
Stanley Crouch
• “Like it or not, the precious First Amendment right
to free speech gives every one of the hip-hop
minstrels currently being hyped by cynical record
labels and television execs a constitutionally
protected right to act like complete jackasses before
a national audience. It also gives the rest of us the
right to speak up and denounce such buffoonery as
what it is: a direct throwback to the days of burnt
cork and blackface, when fortunes were made from
America's seemingly bottomless appetite for
demeaning images featuring black folks shuffling,
cutting up, dancing jigs and generally behaving like
Homework Assignment
• Do the images, lyrics and/or music in any of
these videos constitute modern day
• Remember, in this assignment we are
criticizing the institution of minstrelsy. We are
not criticizing the performers or the
Dave Chappelle
In Advertisements
Chain Hang Low “Jibbs”
Chicken Noodle Soup
• Websites of Interest
• PBS Explanation of Blackface Minstrelsy
• Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia (Great
explanation and images of caricatures)
• Blog by student Ashley Martin