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Unmasking Jim Crow: Blackface Minstrelsy in American Popular Culture

Event Details

Unmasking Jim Crow: Blackface Minstrelsy in American Popular Culture

Time: January 26, 2015 at 4:30pm to May 8, 2015 at 7pm
Location: Loeb Music Library, Music Building
Street: North Yard, Harvard University
City/Town: Cambridge, MA 02138 USA
Website or Map: http://music.fas.harvard.edu/…
Phone: 617-495-2794
Event Type: symposium/exhibition
Organized By: Students from the seminar “Blackface Minstrelsy in 19th Century America,” taught by Oja and Parler during the fall semester
Latest Activity: Jan 29, 2015

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Event Description

The Harvard Music Department announces a new library exhibit, Unmasking Jim Crow: Blackface Minstrelsy in American Popular Culture, examining the painful racist history and complex legacy of blackface performance in American culture. The exhibit will be on display January 26 through May 8, 2015 on the second floor of the Eda Kuhn Loeb Music Library. Included in the exhibit are images, sheet music, songsters, and other minstrel show artifacts from the Harvard Theater Collection, which houses one of the most important collections of 19th century minstrelsy materials in the world.

An opening symposium will launch the exhibit on January 26, 2015 at 4:30 PM in the Spalding Room of the Music Library. Carol J. Oja, William Powell Mason Professor of Music and Samuel Parler, Ph.D. Candidate in Music, will offer introductory remarks, followed by a keynote address from Louis Chude-Sokei, Associate Professor of English at the University of Washington and author of The Last “Darky”: Bert Williams, Black-on-Black Minstrelsy, and the African Diaspora (Duke University Press, 2006).  The symposium will conclude with a performance by Rhiannon Giddens, banjoist and singer of the Grammy Award-winning folk trio The Carolina Chocolate Drops. Both the symposium and exhibit are free and open to the public.

The exhibit is curated by students from the seminar “Blackface Minstrelsy in 19th Century America,” taught by Oja and Parler during the fall semester. The artifacts of 19th-century minstrelsy include materials with toxic racial images and powerful, culturally ingrained musical texts. The historical impact of both the images and the music has been huge, and the goal of this project has been to engage students in a conversation about this important aspect of American racial history. The materials displayed document minstrelsy’s wide geographic and chronological span. Topics include the careers of composer-performers Thomas Dartmouth Rice (of European-American heritage) and James Bland (of African-American heritage); minstrel performance in America’s western frontier; black perspectives on blackface; and minstrelsy’s legacy in the 20th and 21st centuries.

The exhibit is supported by grants from the Elson Family Arts Initiative Fund and the Provostial Fund for the Arts and Humanities.

Comment Wall

Comment by Paul Sedgwick on January 26, 2015 at 9:42am

I previewed when I dropped my instruments off for loan. It is a small exhibit. Includes some current thinking and content, but not necessarily pushing any envelopes. Again, this is a student-organized exhibit that was part of their culminating work for the seminar they attended this past fall. So, not really a Harvard exhibit, per se. So, keep that in mind if/when you attend. Picked Rhiannon up at the airport yesterday. I think she is a bit shocked to know that she may be with us here in New England until Thursday (at least?)!

Comment by Greg Adams on January 26, 2015 at 9:55am

Have fun in the snow! I hope that today's programming will, in fact, come together even with the weather.

Comment by Rhiannon Giddens on January 26, 2015 at 10:08am

hey any excuse to reread demons of disorder and have a hang with paul, even if it's cancelled.

Comment by Leonidas (Lee) Jones on January 26, 2015 at 10:14am
Not going to make it from here either. Weather probably won't be too bad today, but we do have to prepare to be snowed in for several days, so there is a lot to do.
Comment by Strumelia on January 26, 2015 at 10:15am

Maybe you could play Kick Up the Devil on a Holiday....

Stay warm!

Comment by Christopher Stetson on January 26, 2015 at 10:21am

Bummed also that I won't get to meet Rhiannon, Paul, and James.  I hope it goes well.  I doubt if they'll cancel, the storm's not supposed to be bad until evening.  Enjoy!

Comment by Paul Sedgwick on January 26, 2015 at 10:55am

I will be there! 

Comment by Rhiannon Giddens on January 26, 2015 at 11:03am

Hey Strumelia how'd you know that was in my list!

Comment by Strumelia on January 26, 2015 at 11:26am

'cause it's one of the awesomest rascaliest ones!    ;D

Comment by Rhiannon Giddens on January 26, 2015 at 1:33pm

definitely not canceling. sorry y'all can't make it.

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