ABOUT THIS BOOK
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.