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"The Seeming Counterfeit: Racial Politics and Early Blackface Minstrelsy,"

Author is on our board of experts.

Eric Lott is most interested in problematizing contemporary reactions to minstrelsy, pointing out plural political effects rather than simply condemning such entertainment practices as exploitative. In this article, he is concerned with assumptions of authenticity in reference to minstrelsy–the idea that these tunes and dance methods were the authentic culture of African American slaves. In fact, in some reviews it is hard to find an explicit acknowledgement that these performers were white in blackface. Lott argues that this was a mediated form of exhibiting and appreciating, in some form or another, black folk culture. The use of white performers provided safety for the audience through distancing. He uses as an example the story of PTBarnum who replaced his best blackface performer with an African American who had to put burnt cork on his face in order to appear to be a white actor in blackface, thereby complicating these issues of authenticity of which Lott speaks. Like Marriott, Lott talks about the prominence of the black body within such performances. He calls minstrelsy both corporeal containment and the carnivalizing of race. There are a number of quote cards we could pull from here, including the PTBarnum story.

quote by Frederick Douglass:
"the filthy scum of white society, who have stolen from us a complexion denied to them by nature, in which to make money, and pander to the corrupt taste of their white fellow citizens"

"blackface minstrelsy's century-long commercial regulation of black cultural practices stalled the development of Negro public arts and generated an enduring narrative of racist ideology – a historical process by which an entire people has been made the bearer of another people's "folk" culture."

"an unsteady but continual oscillation between fascination with "blackness" and fearful ridicule of it, underscored but not necessarily determined by an oscillation between sympathetic belief in black face's authenticity and ironic distance from its counterfeit representations"

"The primary purpose of the mask, then, may have been as much to maintain control over a potentially subversive act as to ridicul, though blackface performers' attempts at regulation also appear to have been capable of producing an aura of "blackness."

"Minstrel songs and dances conjured up not only the black body but its labor; not only its sexuality but its place and function in a particular economy."

similarity to Marriott article: "In short, white men's investment in a rampageous black phallus appears to have defined the minstrel show."

similarity to Hodes article: "the equation of sexual anarchy with political disorder"

also see article for words to songs that might be used as quote cards