Minstrel Shows: Entertainment In Antebellum America

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Minstrel shows were a popular form on entertainment in antebellum America and after the Civil War. It can be considered as the first typically American form of entertainment. Minstrel shows were performances in which actors portraying African American would sing, dance and tell jokes. Before the Civil War, minstrel shows performers were mostly white actors. After the Civil War, more Blacks started to perform in those shows. In order to portray black characters, white actors would use make-up such as burnt cork or great paint which led to the term blackface minstrelsy. At first, when African American started to performance in minstrel shows they also used the blackface make-up technique. Indeed, blackface make-up was rough and over exaggerated: actors would paint their faces very dark and use red make-up all around their mouths for it to look like they had huge lips. Around the end of the minstrel show period, black performers abandoned the blackface make-up. However, in the early years of blackface minstrelsy, lots of people in the…show more content…
Hughes explains in is article, minstrelsy was "the most popular form of entertainment in antebellum America". Minstrel shows were performed form Northern cities to the Western frontier. The audience of minstrel shows was different from that of theatres. Indeed, the theatre experience was more an upper or middle-class experience whereas minstrel shows were more popular. Spectators of minstrel shows had an active experience since the audience would often react and encourage what was happening on stage. Minstrel shows were peculiar form of entertainment in the 19th century because the shows addressed subversive subjects like slavery and the abolitionist movement or the struggle for women's right. Minstrel shows would depict idealistic vision of plantation life in the South. However, most of the audience end the performers usually had no knowledge of the Southern life and of the reality of slavery in the United

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