iframe

Boston's Crusade against Slavery

Photograph

Buckley's Minstrels, "The invalid corps" (Boston, 1863)

Photograph

C. A. White, "I'se gwine back to Dixie" (Boston, 1875): sheet music.

While spirituals emerged as a powerful form of social protest against slavery, an anti-abolitionist equivalent cropped up in the form of minstrelsy. Minstrel performers borrowed the music of African Americans while caricaturing them by "blacking up" and demeaning them. While minstrelsy was a form of popular culture and entertainment, it also shaped the way many white Americans understood race and class in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. By characterizing blacks as childlike and unfit for the responsibilities of freedom, minstrelsy legitimated the oppression of African Americans that persisted long after the Civil War.

TCS 82 - Bequest of Evert Jansen Wendell, 1918. pf MS Thr 730 (21) - Bequest of F. W. Wilson, 2010.