chapter  1
24 Pages

Mock Blacks

Various aspects of the cultures of white and black people, in the voluntary and involuntary movements, fed into the phenomenon of blackface minstrelsy, which emerged in its characteristic form in the second quarter of the nineteenth century. Many nineteenth-century minstrel songs imitated the 'Scottish snap' and gapped scale characteristic of traditional Anglo-Celtic tunes. Minstrelsy was packaged and presented from the first as an alluring cultural commodity. The long-lasting success of minstrelsy across the whole social spectrum in Britain was due to a range of different, fluctuating factors, and while this makes certain generalizations about its popularity difficult, certain aspects of blackface minstrelsy did at times attain greater prominence than others. Minstrelsy specialized in mock blacks and racial mockery. It offered a stereotypical depiction of African-American people and their vernacular cultures as these had developed within the system of British slavery and its historical continuations.