Slavery and Sentiment on the American Stage, 1787-1861: Lifting the Veil of Black

Overview

For almost a hundred years before Uncle Tom's Cabin burst on to the scene in 1852, the American theatre struggled to represent the evils of slavery. Slavery and Sentiment questions how the texts, images, and performances presented to American audiences during the antebellum period engaged with the debate over black participation in American society. The book reconsiders traditional comic stereotypes like Jim Crow, as well as familiar sentimental ones, such as Uncle Tom, plus a host of long-forgotten characters ...

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Overview

For almost a hundred years before Uncle Tom's Cabin burst on to the scene in 1852, the American theatre struggled to represent the evils of slavery. Slavery and Sentiment questions how the texts, images, and performances presented to American audiences during the antebellum period engaged with the debate over black participation in American society. The book reconsiders traditional comic stereotypes like Jim Crow, as well as familiar sentimental ones, such as Uncle Tom, plus a host of long-forgotten characters who once populated the American theatre, and who provoked audiences to tears, laughter, and political action. Using plays, poetry, performances, popular novels, and political cartoons, Slavery and Sentiment blends American history, theatre, history, and literary history to question how theatre and performance lifted the "veil of black" on American racism in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The book contributes to the ongoing discussion of the role of African-American characters and performers in American cultural history, and offers scholars in a range of fields a new perspective on a complicated moment in the nation's theatrical past.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"From minstrelsy to open propaganda from both sides of the abolition debate the author introduces the reader to a stunning kaleidoscope of Black characters and their varying functions in the respective plays....The author has to be applauded first and foremost for keeping the scope of her study wide and also presenting plays and developments from the pro-slavery faction...Slavery and Sentiment on the American Stage 1787-1861 by Heather S. Nathans is an achievement which should not be underestimated...a volume which satisfies the reader interested in the history of slavery in the US just as well as the reader focusing on the history of drama. The in-depth outline of the history of the politics of slavery make the book a compendium which can impressively shed light on the developments that – after all – led to a war which the United States has up to our days not forgotten and which has an impact on modern relations within the Union...More work of this academic density is definitely desired in this field."
-Michael Heinze, TheaterForschung

"..the book is certainly essential to the understanding of the early American stage."
-JUDIE NEWMAN, Journal of American Studies

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Heather S. Nathans is Associate Professor in the Department of Theatre, University of Maryland.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

Introduction 1

1 A nation's promise: performances of liberty 15

2 The rules change 51

3 Fantasies of Africa 86

4 Sentimental enterprise: Yankees and Sambos 133

5 Peace or a sword: performing violence in the name of freedom 170

6 Lead us not into temptation: staging black temperance and performing racial uplift 212

Epilogue: The more things change 247

Bibliography 250

Index 270

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