Publication Date

April 2016

Advisor(s)

Jay Hoggard, Rashida Shaw

Major

African American Studies, Music

Language

English (United States)

Abstract

This thesis analyzes traumas of chattel slavery associated with the enslaved black female. Highlighting sexual violence, and the manipulation of science, performance and philosophies used to subjugate black women, I argue that the black female body continues to be a site of slavery, even after emancipation. Focusing on some of the myths established during the era of minstrelsy and accompanying these stories with actual slave narratives, I discuss how these tropes have been shifted from the plantation to modern day and often leave the black female body “captured” by these representations. These tropes render the once enslaved black female body an inescapable scene of subjection. Using a multidisciplinary methodological approach of gender and feminist theories, African- American studies, music, psychology, and history, I analyze the tropes of stereotypic images that manifested in the performance form called minstrelsy. These minstrel caricatures continue to be addressed in African American art and music performance traditions. I assert art as a way to intellectualize the pain that the black female body carries, remembers and was often denied of feeling. By examining the work of Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Kara Walker, and Jamilla Okubo, I engage with counter narratives that female artists of the African diaspora have created in order to heal or redress the violence and histories that the black female body continues to remember after the legal abolishment of slavery.

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