The American Stage: Writing on the Theater from Washington Irving to Tony Kushner

Title

The American Stage: Writing on the Theater from Washington Irving to Tony Kushner

Description

This book contains an interesting section written in 1906 by Mark Twain (pg. 84-89). In the section, Twain reminisces about the old minstrel shows he saw and loved, providing first hand accounts of the shows themselves. Most notably, he is very desirous for the shows to return. He continually refers to “the real nigger show-the genuine nigger show” (pg. 84), possibly implying that he is not a fan of the new African American art form of ragtime. He describes the way in which performers dressed and acted, revealing the racist sentiment of the time period. His description clearly labels the shows as offensively, and obviously, racist. The white audience was encouraged to laugh at the performers as they "depicted" aspects of "negro life". Twain remarks that the shows were popular up until the late 1870's, and that he misses them dearly, for they provided such laughter. One thing I found interesting was the difficulty I had in determining whether the performers were white or black. Twain simply refers to them as "negroes" or "niggers", but does not reveal what their true skin color was. While I imagine they must all be black (post Civil War shows almost always were), the ambiguity is odd. Ultimately, this view into the white perspective of early African American minstrel shows reinforces the notion that such shows did not provide blacks respect or allow for their integration into white, American society.

Creator

Mark Twain

Publisher

Library of America

Date

1906

Rights

Senelick, Laurence. The American Stage: Writing on Theater from Washington Irving to Tony Kushner. New York: Library of America, 2010.

Original Format

Book

Files

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Collection

Citation

Mark Twain, “The American Stage: Writing on the Theater from Washington Irving to Tony Kushner,” Inbetween Peoples, accessed September 24, 2020, https://as205.omeka.net/items/show/2.