Submission Date


Document Type

Paper- Restricted to Campus Access


American Studies


Alice Leppert

Committee Member

Patricia Schroeder

Committee Member

Holly J. Hubbs

Department Chair

Patricia Schroeder

Project Description

Blackface minstrelsy was the most popular form of entertainment in the United States for over 50 years. While minstrelsy has seemingly faded from popular view, it has instead evolved and is still present in contemporary media. Spike Lee has criticized African American director Tyler Perry for incorporating minstrel figures in his works. Jazz music has many roots connected to minstrelsy entertainment, and some elements of contemporary commercial hip-hop culture contain concepts that are connected to minstrelsy. Miley Cyrus' 2013 MTV Video Music Awards performance proved that the foundations of minstrelsy and racial satire are present in popular culture. Her performance received criticism from many media outlets for her appropriation of African American sexuality, and her use of African American women as props. Does minstrelsy inherently serve to uphold white power structures? How does post-racial ideology influence performances of stylized blackness? These issues are not only prevalent in our media culture, but also on college campuses where students have engaged in racist theme parties. At Ursinus College, an upperclassman at the 2012 Senior Halloween Party dressed in blackface as Olympic Gold Medalist Gabby Douglas. This study provides an examination of minstrelsy in U.S. culture and its relevance today through a historically informed textual analysis of films, television shows, and music and dance recordings/performances from the last decade.