Cover: Staging Race: Black Performers in Turn of the Century America, from Harvard University PressCover: Staging Race in PAPERBACK

Staging Race

Black Performers in Turn of the Century America

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$31.00 • £26.95 • €28.95

ISBN 9780674027602

Publication Date: 03/15/2008


304 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

27 halftones


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Nowadays black minstrels are not seen as black performers trapped into humiliating roles, but as black performers helping to define what blackness was. Karen Sotiropoulos, in her extremely useful history, Staging Race: Black Performers in Turn of the Century America, argues that the popular stage was a part of the political debate.—Darryl Pinckney, The New York Review of Books

By examining the history of leading black artists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Sotiropoulos addresses an important and often overlooked aspect of African American history. Staging Race is a valuable addition to the field of cultural studies and offers readers a new perspective on the role of commercial amusements and celebrity artists in the transformation of American race relations during the twentieth century.—Scott A. Newman, Journal of American History

Sotiropoulos has written an exciting original piece of work that will prompt scholars to re-think what they knew about African American performers during the ‘nadir.’ She convincingly asserts that these artists played into and used the racist stereotypes that were being promulgated as a way of gaining space in the public arena. In using those stereotypes the African American performers were in a dialogue with their African American audiences about issues of personhood as well as critiquing the stereotype themselves. This is an important book.—Kenneth Goings, Ohio State University

Karen Sotiropoulos tells the riveting story of a group of black intellectuals who challenged social Darwinism, imperialism, segregation and promoted a discourse of black nation-building. Brilliantly written and conceived, Staging Race will force us all to rethink early 20th century black musical theater, as well as black political thought during the so-called ‘nadir’ of African American history.—Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination

In Staging Race, Karen Sotiropoulos casts the politics of turn-of-the-century African-American entertainment in a new light. Tracing such figures as Bert Williams, Aida Overton Walker, and James Reese Europe, she reveals how black entertainers pushed against the minstrel stereotypes they were expected to perform, inserting social and political themes to speak directly to black audiences and over the heads of whites. They created performers’ organizations, established a black-owned sheet music company, and eventually broke onto the Broadway stage. Meticulous in its research, powerfully argued, and elegantly written, this is a first-rate work of scholarship.—Kathy Peiss, University of Pennsylvania

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