The Minstrel show set the stereotypes for African Americans in the 19th century. With the shows mimicking demeanor and use of black face, the minstrels showed the way they believed African Americans acted. The interlocutor would wink to the audience to establish the mutual understanding that the performers are differentfrom the audience but only because the performers are in the blackface. Acknowledging that the blackfaced white actors are only in black face and are not actually “black” is an important destinction that entertains the white audience and performers. The mintrels would say that the performance was not aimed to discuss the direct connect between the white mintrel performers and the African Americans. The concern of the mintrels was not to portray a race with a culture, but to show how they portray a race with a culture, but to show how they portrayed African Americans to act; opening a gateway to stereotypes according to color.
When African American minstrels made their way to the entertainment stage, they eventually changed the words, jokes, and look of mintrelsy. Although there were changes to the contest of the show, the African American minstrels maintained the original idea of performing color and performing gender for the entertainment and satisfactory of the audiences. The African American minstrel performers were able to provide a “realness” to the performances. With some performances including scenes from a plantation like setting, the African Americans were able to provide “trueness” to the show by the fact that they were black and not just acting black. The black minstrel advertised themselves as authentic. The black minstrels turned the negativity portrayed the South that African Americans were stereotyped to be from, into a poitive living area were residents were relatively happy with their designation.
Double inversion is restaging the bodies of the African American women and men through male impersonation, according to “Black Minstrelsy and Double Inversion, Circa 1890”. The African American men would invert themselves into the African American women. For the African American women, they would be double inverted because they were depicting the African American male and played their roll. Male African American minstrels would only play the role in female impersonation. The African American female minstrels dressed and acted as males. The performances by African American minstrels inverted the way that the white minstrels depicted the male body. African American men were displayed as deformend and emasculated. African American women were seen as whorish.
“When performed by African American female minstrels, gender impersonation doubly inverted the representations of blackness rendered by white minstrelsy.” Anne Marie Bean says in Black Mistrelsy and Double Inversion, Circa 1890. African Americans found these ways to use double inversion to their advantage. “American male impersonators’ double inversion of color and gender directly tapped into the anxieties that the dominant culture had about African American women and men. By changing the nature of those characterizations, black minstrelsy, in effect, negated their “coloring” and asserted themselves as a race with first, a proud history, and second, an exciting present.”, Anne Marie Bean also said.
Although the minstrel show was not a positive portrayal on African Americans, the African American minstrels found benefitial ways to use the shows. The minstrel shows opened up opportunities for African Americans to become performers and musicians whether they were trained or untrained. The shows provided stage training which allowed the performers to gain experience- ultimately allowing the African American minstrels to gain experience. It would not be uncommon for an African American in the working class to attend a minstrel show because they attended the show solely on the entertainment and not in realistic portrayal. With the participation of African American performers in the shows, they were able to show for themselves how the race acts and would go along with the entertainment because they were not advertising how the culture of African Americans were. “African American male impersonators inverted a theatrical playing out of dominance, turning over and around the assertion of power by the white male. They challeneged the gender metaphor that they inherited from white minstrelsy on a small but significant scale.” Anne Marie Bean expressed.
The white minstrels came close to defining how the African American race should sound and appear but with the skills from the African American minstrels, both male and female, the ideas that non African Americans had on African Americans was restaged.
Courtney from Study Moose