Behind the Burnt Cork Mask: Early Blackface Minstrelsy and Antebellum American Popular Culture
by William J. Mahar
University of Illinois Press, 1999
Paper: 978-0-252-06696-2 | Cloth: 978-0-252-02396-5
Library of Congress Classification ML1711.M34 1999
Dewey Decimal Classification 791.120973

      The songs, dances, jokes, parodies, spoofs, and skits of blackface groups
        such as the Virginia Minstrels and Buckley's Serenaders became wildly
        popular in antebellum America. Behind the Burnt Cork Mask not only
        explores the racist practices of these entertainers but considers their
        performances as troubled representations of ethnicity, class, gender,
        and culture in the nineteenth century.
      William J. Mahar's unprecedented archival study of playbills, newspapers,
        sketches, monologues, and music engages new sources previously not considered
        in twentieth-century scholarship. More than any other study of its kind,
        Behind the Burnt Cork Mask investigates the relationships between
        blackface comedy and other Western genres and traditions; between the
        music of minstrel shows and its European sources; and between "popular"
        and "elite" constructions of culture.
      By locating minstrel performances within their complex sites of production,
        Mahar offers a significant reassessment of the historiography of the field.
        Behind the Burnt Cork Mask promises to redefine the study of blackface
        minstrelsy, charting new directions for future inquiries by scholars in
        American studies, popular culture, and musicology.

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