The essays explore the predicament that blacks faced at a time when white supremacy crested and innovations in consumption, technology, and leisure made mass culture possible. Fitzhugh Brundage, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Clare Corbould, University of Sydney Susan Curtis, Purdue University Stephanie Dunson, Williams College Lewis A.Underscoring the importance and complexity of race in the emergence of mass culture, Beyond Blackface depicts popular culture as a crucial arena in which African Americans struggled to secure a foothold as masters of their own representation and architects of the nation's emerging consumer society. Erenberg, Loyola University Chicago Stephen Garton, University of Sydney John M. [It] stands as an excellent overview that fills a large gap in the scholarship."--The Historian "An invaluable introduction to the emergence of African American popular culture."--Florida Historical Quarterly "This first-rate collection of essays seeks to move conversations about black performance, black culture, and the embodiment of both beyond the heretofore 'comfortable' terrain of blackface and minstrelsy.
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In this elegantly written, complex, and multifaceted tour de force, Sammond has given us a historically grounded and theoretically attuned analysis of blackface animation and its persistent uses, which runs throughout the history of moving images.
Sammond’s crucial intervention, as with Taylor’s reading of the racial structures in [C]ommercial animation in the United States didn’t borrow from blackface minstrelsy, nor was it simply influenced by it.
It is also extremely well supported, and the convincingness of Sammond’s argument makes this book a major contribution to studies of the history of animation, of race and American media, and of the development of American cinema itself.
Sammond demonstrates that “it is through the seemingly trivial that fantasies of blackness and whiteness circulate freely and with relatively little critical comment, stabilizing if not producing meaning.” Cartoons have much to tell us about the racial dynamics of the nation’s self image and its attending anxieties.
Indeed, he explicitly builds his analysis from the presumptive position of a critical observer: for example, looking at recurrent characters such as Felix the Cat and Mickey Mouse, Sammond asks, “why the gloves?
” The answer, of course, has to do with minstrelsy, even if it was not explicitly labeled as such. In a moment where the status of the book as an object is in question, Sammond helpfully provides online access to a rich archive of cartoons, allowing the reader to directly and immediately engage with all of the works he discusses through the book’s digital companion (.
In addressing these topics, Sammond nicely frames difficult questions bluntly: “If you perform racist behaviors and stereotypes in order to demonstrate their absurdity, do you deflate them or invest them with new life by de-stigmatizing them? Here, he explores the contemporary manifestation of the “expectations and anxieties around embodied authenticity,” thereby connecting the comedic self-reflexive “knowingness” of He also reminds us that blackface is not an embarrassing relic of performance history, but rather it has become “a surprisingly popular means by which to mobilize race as critique—for better or worse” in the so-called postracial present.) are predicated on the very inequities they purport to disrupt and are therefore hollow gestures that end up reinforcing the systemic entrenchment of racialized hierarchies.
As Sammond puts it plainly, “if one were truly post-racial, why would one perform race at all?