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Darkest America: Black Minstrelsy from Slavery to Hip-Hopby Yuval Taylor
Synopses & Reviews
Yuval Taylor and Jake Austen investigate the complex history of black minstrelsy, adopted in the mid-nineteenth century by African American performers who played the grinning blackface fool to entertain black and white audiences. We now consider minstrelsy an embarrassing relic, but once blacks and whites alike saw it as a black art form--and embraced it as such. And, as the authors reveal, black minstrelsy remains deeply relevant to popular black entertainment, particularly in the work of contemporary artists like Dave Chappelle, Flavor Flav, Spike Lee, and Lil Wayne. explores the origins, heyday, and present-day manifestations of this tradition, exploding the myth that it was a form of entertainment that whites foisted on blacks, and shining a sure-to-be controversial light on how these incendiary performances can be not only demeaning but also, paradoxically, liberating.
"Taylor (coauthor of Faking It) and Austen (editor of Roctober magazine) provide a comprehensive and perceptive history and critique of black minstrelsy — a tradition that began in the 1840s, where black performers entertained black and white audiences by playing the grinning blackface buffoon, exaggerating the traits white people used to characterize black men. Minstrelsy emerged as the most popular form of entertainment (the ancestor of vaudeville and the variety show) until the turn of the 20th century, when the classic minstrel variety show gradually disappeared. Taylor and Austen argue that minstrelsy's 'Negro caricature' became woven into American culture, reappearing in the 21st century in hip-hop, rap, Mardi Gras Zulu floats in New Orleans, and inspiring the work of artists like Lil Wayne and Spike Lee. The book explores minstrelsy's long period of popularity; artists such as Bert Williams and Master Juba; its audience's reactions; and the ways its innovative performances have influenced American culture. According to the authors, black minstrel performers did not simply re-enact degrading stereotypes, but rather satirized those stereotypes to liberate themselves and their audiences. In his performances, Bert Williams expunged some of minstrelsy's demeaning aspects to highlight its humanity and pathos, while Louis Armstrong and Ray Charles kept minstrelsy's musical legacy alive through its songs. This well-informed work deepens our understanding of a lasting element of American culture. Illus. Agent: William Clark, William Clark Associates." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
An exploration and celebration of a controversial tradition that, contrary to popular opinion, is alive and active after more than 150 years.
About the Author
Yuval Taylor, senior editor at Chicago Review Press, is the coauthor of Faking It and the editor of I Was Born a Slave. He lives in Chicago, Illinois.Jake Austen is the editor of Roctober magazine, He lives in Chicago, Illinois.
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