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Warring for AmericaCultural Contests in the Era of 1812$
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Nicole Eustace and Fredrika J. Teute

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781469631516

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469631516.001.0001

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Minstrelization and Nationhood

Minstrelization and Nationhood

“Backside Albany,” Backlash, and the Wartime Origins of Blackface Minstrelsy

Chapter:
(p.29) Minstrelization and Nationhood
Source:
Warring for America
Author(s):

David Waldstreicher

Publisher:
University of North Carolina Press
DOI:10.5149/northcarolina/9781469631516.003.0001

This essay argues that the long-acknowledged first example of U.S. blackface minstrelsy, a song entitled “Backside Albany” or “The Siege of Plattsburgh,” was crucially shaped by its war of 1812 origins. By extension, the essay also argues that blackface minstrelsy can then be understood as one of the effects of the War of 1812. The song, “sung in the character of a black sailor” in Albany and New York in 1814 and 1815, responds to the importance of black sailors and African Americans more generally in the war and in contemporary politics. It tries to contain black assertiveness, but in doing so affirms the centrality of African Americans and their struggles in that moment. I argue that the racializing and demeaning work of blackface minstrelsy must thus be seen as a response to free black politics and to antislavery, and earlier than scholars have contended

Keywords:   blackface minstrelsy, war of 1812, black sailors, “Backside Albany”, “The Siege of Plattsburgh”, Andrew Jackson Allen

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