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Darkening Mirrors: Imperial Representation in Depression-Era African American Performance Paperback – January 6, 2012
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About the Author
Stephanie Leigh Batiste is a performance artist and Associate Professor of English and Black Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
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As a performance artist at UCSB, Batiste is in a position to deliver this provocative study of the performances of Lena Horne, Bill "Bojangles" Robinson and Paul Robeson, and lesser known performers, and their social implications. She traces the black experience in theater through a turbulent period in our history to a point in time now better appreciated and understood.
In Darkening Mirrors, Batiste examines how African Americans, a population treated as second-class citizens at home, imagined themselves as empowered, modern U.S. citizens and transnational actors in Depression-era plays, operas, ballets, and films. Many of these productions, such as the 1938 hits Haiti and The "Swing" Mikado, recruited unknown performers, involving the black community not only as participants but also as spectators. Performances of exoticism, orientalism, and primitivism are linked to issues of embodiment, including how bodies signify blackness as a cultural, racial, and global category. Whether enacting U.S. imperialism in westerns, dramas, dances, songs, or comedy sketches, African Americans maintained a national identity that registered a diasporic empowerment and resistance on the global stage. This message, this story that Batiste attempts to convey in her well researched and documented book, comes through vividly in the included photos and announcement of Lena Horne and Bill "Bojangles" Robinson in the classic, Stormy Weather.
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