Thinking, Scripting, and Performing: Constructing and Playing the Racial Synecdoche in the Antebellum North

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2007-05-06

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In my thesis, I argue that between the years of 1830-1842, free African Americans scripted and performed what I term, following historian Patrick Rael, the racial synecdoche. This "character" was a black performative identity that people of color should play on the public stage. The performance team--or those who scripted and performed this new black identity--believed that the performance of the synecdoche would grant free people of color eligibility to perform full civic participation in America's nascent democracy. In this study, I consider the national black conventions of the 1830s as ritualistic sites and as the primary loci where that self-scripting process took place. I characterize this thesis as an intellectual history and hope that it contributes to the vital and ever-growing bodies of African American history and African American theatre and performance history, as well as add contour and complexity to the well-charted Jacksonian period.

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