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By Shirley Moody-Turner

"Before the leading edge paintings of Zora Neale Hurston, folklorists from the Hampton Institute gathered, studied, and wrote approximately African American folklore. Like Hurston, those folklorists labored inside but in addition past the boundaries of white mainstream associations. they typically referred to as into query the which means of the very folklore tasks during which they have been engaged. Shirley Moddy-Turner analyzes this output, besides the  Read more...

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He continued, “I doubt whether a single instance can be cited of the adoption and assimilation, by a highly cultivated race, of any considerable body of barbarous ideas. S. racial discourse, theories of diffusion, along with the geographic and environmental explanation for cultural similarities and differences, meant that African Americans could assimilate (and indeed had done so) to the more civilized practices and traditions of white Americans. 15 In other words, the argument for circulation of cultural materials and the assimilation of racial groups was posed in an earlier guise, as the abolitionists and then reformists argued first for blacks’ inherent humanity and second for blacks’ ability to be educated and elevated to civilized standards.

By 1840, any liberating and subversive potential that the early Jim Crow performances may have suggested had given way to the form of blackface minstrelsy, producing the damaging stereotypes that openly caricatured and ridiculed black life. ”45 By the mid-1800s, minstrel performances used this “humor” to penetrate a national consciousness and shape an ideology of racial difference and degradation. What white audiences found most comical in the white minstrel performances of black life were the grotesque physical features attributed to blacks and the primitive, childish behaviors parodied for comic value, as the following description of the Virginia Minstrels’ performance makes clear: They burst on stage in makeup which gave the impression of huge eyes and gaping mouths.

1: “Thomas Rice as Jim Crow” (ca. 1830). Harvard Theater Collection, Harvard University. basis of demeaning stereotypes, as Tolls contends, one thing is certain: early blackface performances played an integral role in forming the popular perceptions of the black folk. Rice’s white contemporaries, for example, did not see him as an originator at all but lauded him as one skilled at impersonating the gestures and language of the black folk. 32 Folklore and the Birth of Jim Crow A London reviewer explained, “We will not say that we like Mr.

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