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When Sherman Dudley's black barber character, Raspberry Snow, took to the stage in 1910, his pre-promoted "shiftless" personality fulfilled American audiences' conditioned, pejorative expectations for blackness. A closer look at the storyline, however, suggests Dudley fashioned Snow's predictability to be an example of the opportunity for subversion of power that exists for stereotyped individuals. Embodying the surface attributes of the stereotype designed to confine them, a number of American performing personae escape persecution, and even profit by lulling their "audiences" (read: adversaries) into believing all is well. Quite often, performing the stereotype is as simple as donning a notably "black" hairstyle, or presuming the supposedly docile attributes associated with black barbers. Moreover, there is strong evidence to suggest that since at least the early nineteenth century, storytellers both black and white have contributed to the promotion of this powerful secret. Black hairstyles and barbers that subvert racist intentions are a recurring theme throughout American lore, and their inclusion in tales by Dan Emmett and Herman Melville resurface in later works by Charles Chesnutt and Sherman Dudley. This paper traces a lineage of characters who successfully subvert an imposed power structure, and whose messages continue to recycle themselves in modern-day performances that suggest black and white are not as far apart as conventional wisdom would have us believe.
Sherman Dudley, Barbershop, Passing, Benito Cereno, Shine, Toba, Toasts, Hip Hop, Shock Wig, Minstrelsy, Uncle Tom's Cabin, Topsy, Babo, Chesnutt, T.D. Rice, Jim Crow, Espn, Ada Walker, Melville, Dan Emmett, Stereotypes, Barbers, Hairstyles
Date of Defense
February 28, 2005.
A Thesis submitted to the Department of American and Florida Studies in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts.
Includes bibliographical references.
William T. Lhamon, Professor Directing Thesis; Leon Anderson, Committee Member; Sally Sommer, Committee Member.
Florida State University
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