African-American performance and theater history : a by Harry Justin Elam; David Krasner

By Harry Justin Elam; David Krasner

An anthology of severe writings that explores the intersections of race, theater, and function in America.

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Within the myths of black femininity of the nineteenth century, only the mammy is free of the taint of sexuality. Her physical traits place her beyond the pale of sexual attraction. However, like Topsy, her representation entails an excess, and the same traits that mark her as undesirable can be read as sexualized. Although the myth marks the mammy as a woman whose body is denuded of sexuality, in literature, as in reality, this separation is impossible. ”37 Encoded within this visual representation are the stereotypical features of the mammy.

They included the story of the fair-skinned Eliza and George Harris, as well as the tragedies of Cassy and Emmeline. Of the three different types of black female characters that Stowe presents, the tragic mulatto figures were the most intelligent and the most sympathetic. Through these figures, she demonstrates the cost of slavery to the institution of motherhood. 22 Although Stowe uses the term mother without qualification as though to indicate all slave mothers, in the novel she highlights the separation stories of only the fairer-skinned characters: Cassy, Eliza, Emmeline.

All African American traditions were forced to combat the incredible archetypal 19 power of the “Tom Show,” which competed with the other stage images well into the twentieth century. “Tom Shows” incorporated the blackface, music, and spectacle of the minstrel show with the pathos and abolitionist sentiment of Stowe’s novel. Although early black images appeared before those depicted by Uncle Tom’s Cabin,1 in this essay, I use the “Tom Show” as a site where the formation of stereotypes of black female characters can be evaluated.

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