Michael Jackson challenged the power structure of the American music industry and struck at the heart of blackface minstrelsy, America’s first form of mass entertainment. The response was a derisive caricature that over time Jackson subverted through his art.

In this expanded, all-new edition, Michael Jackson and the Blackface Mask argues for the tangible relationship between Jackson and blackface minstrelsy. It reveals the dialogue at minstrelsy’s core and, in its broader sense, tracks a centuries-long pattern of racial oppression and its resistance and how that has been played out in popular theatre. Michael Jackson and the Blackface Mask explores Jackson’s early talent and fame and the birth and escalation of ‘Wacko Jacko’. In relation to all this, the book examines Jackson’s dynamic art as it evolved, from his live performances and short films to the very surface of his own body.

Scholarly and interdisciplinary, this work is suitable for readers across a diverse spectrum of academic fields, including African American studies, popular music studies and cultural theory, media and communication, gender studies and performance and theatre studies. Academic but accessible, this book will also be an engaging read for anyone interested in Michael Jackson and especially in his role as an icon of difference, in America’s dynamics of race and his mass media image.

chapter |10 pages


Michael Jackson and the Afterlife of Blackface Minstrelsy

chapter 1|24 pages

‘Billie Jean’ at Motown 25

Blackface Minstrelsy for a New Generation

chapter 2|17 pages

‘Weel About and Turn About and Do Jis So’

The Demands and Desires of Antebellum Minstrel Theatre

chapter 3|30 pages

‘It's Black, It's White’

Hollywood, Racial Stereotypes and the Blackface Mask

chapter 4|15 pages

‘We Wear the Mask That Grins and Lies’

The Black Minstrel Tradition

chapter 5|31 pages

‘Wacko Jacko’

Michael Jackson's Misrepresentation and Its Strategic Resistance

chapter 6|30 pages

‘The Truth of Lust, Woman to Man’

The (Re)masculation of Michael Jackson

chapter 7|8 pages

‘Come and Rescue Me Out of This Storm’

The Question of Michael Jackson's Legacy