Jump Jim Crow: Lost Plays, Lyrics, and Street Prose of the First Atlantic Popular Culture

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Overview

Beginning in the 1830s, the white actor Thomas D. Rice took to the stage as Jim Crow, and the ragged and charismatic trickster of black folklore entered--and forever transformed--American popular culture. Jump Jim Crow brings together for the first time the plays and songs performed in this guise and reveals how these texts code the complex use and abuse of blackness that has characterized American culture ever since Jim Crow's first appearance.

Along with the prompt scripts of nine plays performed by Rice--never before published as their original audiences saw them--W. T. Lhamon Jr. provides a reconstruction of their performance history and a provocative analysis of their contemporary meaning. His reading shows us how these plays built a public blackness, but also how they engaged a disaffected white audience, who found in Jim Crow's sass and wit and madcap dancing an expression of rebellion and resistance against the oppression and confinement suffered by ordinary people of all colors in antebellum America and early Victorian England.

Upstaging conventional stories and forms, giving direction and expression to the unruly attitudes of a burgeoning underclass, the plays in this anthology enact a vital force still felt in great fictions, movies, and musics of the Atlantic and in the jumping, speedy styles that join all these forms.

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Editorial Reviews

Choice

Lhamon provides a superb follow-up to his outstanding Raising Cain: Blackface Performance from Jim Crow to Hip Hop. This study focuses on the character of Jim Crow (a 'cultural collage') as evolved largely by actor Tomas D. Rice (1806-1860), before the meaning of the name became chiseled in stone...At the heart of the book are expertly and thoroughly edited texts of thirteen songs, nine plays (including the never-published Otello), and two street prose versions of Jim Crow's life. These, along with illustrations and a perceptive, many-layered, and lengthy analytical introduction, make for the most complete offering of primary sources and criticism available to lead readers toward an understanding of these complex texts, their coding, and the controversial figure of Jim Crow.
— D. B. Wilmeth

The Believer

Lhamon's new Jump Jim Crow: Lost Plays, Lyrics, and Street Prose of the First Atlantic Popular Culture is a monumental labor of textual reconstruction matched by a long and extraordinary introduction.
— Robert Christgau

Robert Cantwell
In the developing field of Atlantic proletarian studies, and the associated study of minstrelsy and the minstrel stage, Jump Jim Crow is a milestone. Lhamon's discovery of and scholarship upon the songs and plays is admirably painstaking and in many ways groundbreaking. He has made it easier to imagine this early stage of minstrelsy as a confluence of free-floating vernacular material with the local struggles among urban proto-classes; cliques, gangs, parties, and publics in the 1820s and 30s. He has, in other words, built foundations under Constance Rourke's intuition of sixty years ago that Jim Crow belongs with Crockett and Fink on the frontier - literally and figuratively - of the market revolution. Much of what has been theorized or imagined about the popular culture of the 1830s and 40s from Rourke onwards emerges with new freshness and clarity in these texts, and some that has not yet been either theorized or imagined.
Dale Cockrell
Scholars are belatedly coming to realize that minstrelsy is the source of much that we value in American vernacular music and much that we abhor in views that many white Americans have held and still hold toward African Americans. If we are to begin to understand either of these consuming issues, we must address minstrelsy. The topic is, in brief, of immense social, political, and cultural importance. Lhamon is the first to do full justice to the life, work, and politics of T.D. Rice, the most important early blackface minstrel, and his book is the first to collect in one resource extant plays and lyrics by Rice, many of which Lhamon has rediscovered. This book makes an important and impressive contribution to the field.
Choice - D. B. Wilmeth
Lhamon provides a superb follow-up to his outstanding Raising Cain: Blackface Performance from Jim Crow to Hip Hop. This study focuses on the character of Jim Crow (a 'cultural collage') as evolved largely by actor Tomas D. Rice (1806-1860), before the meaning of the name became chiseled in stone...At the heart of the book are expertly and thoroughly edited texts of thirteen songs, nine plays (including the never-published Otello), and two street prose versions of Jim Crow's life. These, along with illustrations and a perceptive, many-layered, and lengthy analytical introduction, make for the most complete offering of primary sources and criticism available to lead readers toward an understanding of these complex texts, their coding, and the controversial figure of Jim Crow.
The Believer - Robert Christgau
Lhamon's new Jump Jim Crow: Lost Plays, Lyrics, and Street Prose of the First Atlantic Popular Culture is a monumental labor of textual reconstruction matched by a long and extraordinary introduction.
Choice
Lhamon provides a superb follow-up to his outstanding Raising Cain: Blackface Performance from Jim Crow to Hip Hop. This study focuses on the character of Jim Crow (a 'cultural collage') as evolved largely by actor Tomas D. Rice (1806-1860), before the meaning of the name became chiseled in stone...At the heart of the book are expertly and thoroughly edited texts of thirteen songs, nine plays (including the never-published Otello), and two street prose versions of Jim Crow's life. These, along with illustrations and a perceptive, many-layered, and lengthy analytical introduction, make for the most complete offering of primary sources and criticism available to lead readers toward an understanding of these complex texts, their coding, and the controversial figure of Jim Crow.
— D. B. Wilmeth
The Believer
Lhamon's new Jump Jim Crow: Lost Plays, Lyrics, and Street Prose of the First Atlantic Popular Culture is a monumental labor of textual reconstruction matched by a long and extraordinary introduction.
— Robert Christgau
Library Journal
Thomas Dartmouth Rice captured American and British audiences in the 1830s and succeeding decades with his groundbreaking blackface performances as "Jim Crow," a stage phenomenon in urban popular culture and a prototype for later theatrical figures. Jim Crow was not just entertaining-he was also a mirror of the growing complexities of society. His savvy observations and sly wit suggested deeper issues to ponder, from racism and stereotyping to slavery and protest against oppression to the shifting boundaries of convention and perceptions of black culture. Here for the first time, Lhamon (George Mills Harper Professor of English, Florida State Univ.) has compiled and edited the complete Jim Crow literature-nine plays, song lyrics, and related writings. Lhamon's accompanying analysis of Jim Crow's character, symbolism, stage material, and style offers keen insights into the past and has fresh relevance in the contemporary world. Information on Rice and his social and historical context creates a solid framework for the subject matter. This is an important study of popular culture, theatrical history, and racial/ social attitudes and will make a welcome addition to academic libraries and large cultural history/theatrical collections, as well as a singular choice for suggested reading lists at universities.-Carol J. Binkowski, Bloomfield, NJ Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674010628
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 5/10/2003
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 478
  • Product dimensions: 6.48 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.53 (d)

Meet the Author

W. T. Lhamon, Jr., is Emeritus Professor of English at Florida State University and Lecturer in American Studies at Smith College.
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Table of Contents

Preface

List of Illustrations

Introduction: An Extravagant and Wheeling Stranger

Lateral Sufficiency

Gumbo Cuff and the New York Desdemonas

Change the Joke and Slip the Stereotype

The Phases of Jim Crow's Runaway Stage

Songs

"Coal Black Rose"

"The Original Jim Crow"

"Jim Crow, Still Alive!!!"

"Dinah Crow"

"Jim Crow" (London)

"De Original Jim Crow"

"Jim Crow" (Boston)

"All de Women Shout Loo! Loo!"

"Clare de Kitchen"

"Gombo Chaff"

"Sich a Gitting Up Stairs"

"Jim Crack Corn, or the Blue Tail Fly"

"Settin' on a Rail, or, Racoon Hunt"

Plays

Oh! Hush! or, The Virginny Cupids!

Virginia Mummy

Bone Squash

Flight to America

The Peacock and the Crow

Jim Crow in His New Place

The Foreign Prince

Yankee Notes for English Circulation

Otello

Street Prose

"Life of Jim Crow"

"A Faithful Account of the Life of Jim Crow the American Negro Poet"

Notes

Acknowledgments

Index

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