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Walker and Atkins' Minstrels
Walker and Atkins' Minstrels
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This broadside advertises one of the many minstrel shows that traveled the north in the decades before the Civil War. These shows provided northern whites, many of whom had never met or even seen an African-American, with a view of black society and culture. Most minstrel featured white actors performing in blackface, and made African-Americans into objects of fun or grotesque caricatures. Staple themes of minstrel shows depicted the carefree, happy slave, and the free black trying to rise above his position in life. As the historian Jean Baker has shown, minstrel shows became an important part of the Democratic Party's political culture by depicting a world in which African-Americans posed no threat to the prerogatives of the free white man.

Also see:
Jean Baker Affairs of Party: The Political Culture of Northern Democrats in the Mid-Nineteenth Century Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1983.

The Minstrel Show:
http://chnm.gmu.edu/courses/jackson/minstrel/minstrel.html

Image source: Chicago Historical Society
©Copyright 2002 Abraham Lincoln Historical Digitization Project