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Black Culture and the New DealThe Quest for Civil Rights in the Roosevelt Era$
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Lauren Rebecca Sklaroff

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780807833124

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: July 2014

DOI: 10.5149/9780807899243_sklaroff

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Hooked on Classics

Hooked on Classics

(p.33) Chapter Two Hooked on Classics
Black Culture and the New Deal

Lauren Rebecca Sklaroff

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter focuses on the Swing Mikado, the most popular and successful of the Negro Unit productions. It is a syncopated version of the classic Gilbert and Sullivan comedic operetta depicting romantic mishaps and political foils in nineteenth-century Japan. On 31 December 1938, the Chicago Defender proudly reported that the Swing Mikado had captivated Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes; although Ickes had initially planned to attend only half of the performance, the first number was compelling enough to keep him in his seat for the rest of the evening. For Ickes, the Swing Mikado exemplified his own progressive inclinations on racial matters, as he exclaimed: “No people . . . can consistently be suppressed on the basis of race, color or creed, when they persist in making cultural contributions of real importance and benefit.”

Keywords:   Swing Mikado, Negro Unit productions, Gilbert and Sullivan, comedic operetta, Harold Ickes

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