chapter  8
28 Pages

Blackface Media

British minstrelsy was, from the start, not so much an imitation, involving any strict fidelity of reproduction of black cultural expression and practice, as a caricature based on white conceptions of Africans and African-Americans. Throughout the period of European colonialism and imperialism, images of Africa and black people were generally the negative opposite of white cultural identities. Blackface minstrelsy always manifested contradictory impulses, reckonings and feelings, not only in certain ways at specific times in particular contexts of production and reception. Blackface constructions of a low-Other displayed, in different periods and different places, varying degrees of self-regarding pathos and attraction, virulence and elective distancing. The cultural assimilation and containment of 'blackness' by blackface was, by the 1930s, marked by a diminution in the force of its heavily racialized 'othering', which had been central to it during the Victorian period.