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Blacks in Blackface: A Sourcebook on Early Black Musical Shows Hardcover – October 30, 2013

ISBN-13: 978-0810883505 ISBN-10: 0810883503 Edition: Second Edition

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Editorial Reviews


Some 30 years have elapsed since publication of the first edition of this work. Intending to give greater coverage to the hundreds of black musical shows beyond the few described in standard references, independent scholar Sampson has done a remarkable job. This new volume is nearly triple the size of the previous edition. A companion to the author's The Ghost Walks, which examines the period 1865-1910, this sourcebook deals with black musical theater, nightclubs, vaudeville, and other venues for the 1900-40 period. It has been revised and expanded in all directions, offering material on the business side of black show business, including producers, entrepreneurs, and theaters; synopses of shows; and biographical entries for hundreds of actors and comedians. . . . [S]ources provide significant treatments. Much of the space in this two-volume sourcebook is devoted to reviews of musical comedy shows, nightclub shows, and other performances as covered in various black newspapers and industry publications of the time, with heavy dependence on the Indianapolis Freeman and Billboard. Additional material details circuses and minstrel shows. Rare photos supplement the entries and provide visual documentation. Sampson has done a fine job of pulling together source material for this vital reference on the history of the black entertainment industry. Summing Up: Essential. All academic libraries; lower-level undergraduates and above; general readers. (CHOICE)

Sampson in Blacks in Blackface focuses on African American musical entertainment between 1900 and 1940. The range of genres is fascinating, including vaudeville and nightclub acts but also minstrel shows, medicine shows, circus sideshows, carnivals, and other forms of variety. Rather than critically analyzing the era, Sampson lets the contemporary commentators speak for themselves through hundreds of brief reviews almost exclusively from the African American press from across the United States. As an introduction to forgotten performers or a reminder of the greats of this period, the reviews are eminently browsable and often illuminate the difficulties black performers had getting and keeping jobs at that time. Each chapter gathers reviews on a specialized topic, such as black theatres or cabarets, and a series of appendixes list shows, theatres, and routings for the TOBA and Dudley Circuits, the main avenues for black performers before World War II. Black-and-white photographs are scattered throughout the volumes. . . .Sampson is an excellent primary sourcebook for African American musical entertainment that will be a fine addition for all large academic and public libraries. (American Reference Books Annual)

About the Author

Henry T. Sampson is the author of several books on African-American culture, including Blacks in Black and White: A Source Book on Black Films, Second Edition (1995), That’s Enough Folks: Black Images in Animated Cartoons, 1900-1960 (1998), and Swingin’ on the Ether Waves: A Chronological History of African Americans in Radio and Television Programming, 1925-1955 (2005), all published by Scarecrow Press.

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