chapter  17
16 Pages

Blackface Minstrels, Black Minstrels, and their Reception in England

The conditions for the English reception of blackface minstrelsy, an entertainment purporting to depict the recreational activities of black plantation slaves, differed in various respects from those in America, and for historic reasons. One successful black member of the troupe was Aaron Banks, especially so when performing the song 'Emancipation Day'. Reynolds remarks that 'no white man could have put the same amount of enthusiasm and realism into this song'. His comment reveals that the success of black minstrels was, indeed, linked to recognition of their authenticity. Nevertheless, it was only in certain moments, such as this, that black minstrels were able to erase the stage from the audience's mind. Reaction to the early minstrel troupes in the 1840s was not one of uniform praise throughout England, and often entailed some unease, especially in the industrial North West.