Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



Nineteenth-century white minstrels portrayed white abolitionists, suffragists, and temperance advocates in blackface, in order discriminate against them in the same way that blacks were discriminated against in minstrel performances. When minstrels blackened their faces to portray these white political advocates, the advocates were transformed into black caricatures, which demeaned the advocates as well as the political causes they supported. The separatist discourse, stressed in minstrelsy, typified the ideology of anti-abolitionist mobs and was used to symbolize their violence against white abolitionists and blacks. In 1850 minstrel performers used minstrelsy to protest suffrage. Since minstrels portrayed white suffragists the same way that black women were portrayed in minstrel performances, the minstrel suffragist was deemed undesirable and unappealing. In order to add to an already unflattering characterization, minstrels portrayed the suffragist as excessively masculine and physically combative. The political power of minstrelsy’s anti-suffrage and anti-temperance rhetoric was intensified when performed in saloons. Because the saloon was a place where votes were bought and sold and where political conventions and primaries were held, votes were easily manipulated and influenced. Minstrelsy’s nineteenth century’s racist, sexist, and drinking ideology can be found on college campuses throughout this nation. White sororities and fraternities have routinely practiced blackface. Oddly enough, the very Greek organizations that used blackface have also been criticized for practices of sexism and binge drinking, the ideology endorsed by nineteenth-century blackface performances. This dissertation is aimed toward highlighting nineteenth-century minstrelsy and the resulting legacy of the art form’s Jacksonian message.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Jennifer Jones Cavenaugh