The Creole Synthesis in the New World

Christopher J. Smith

in The Creolization of American Culture

Published by University of Illinois Press

Published in print September 2013 | ISBN: 9780252037764
Published online April 2017 | e-ISBN: 9780252095047 | DOI:
The Creole Synthesis in the New World

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This chapter examines the musical, cultural, and sociological elements of blackface minstrelsy's “creole synthesis” throughout the Caribbean and the British colonies of North America. It argues that the conditions for the creole synthesis were present virtually from the first encounters of Anglo-Europeans and Africans in the New World. The chapter discusses the riverine, maritime, and frontier social contexts that shaped the music of blackface's African American sources and their Anglo-Celtic imitators. In particular, it considers creole synthesis in the Caribbean and in frontiers such as New Orleans and the Ohio. It also looks at a preliminary example of iconographic analysis that reflects the riverine and maritime creole synthesis: James Henry Beard's 1846 painting Western Raftsmen. The chapter contends that blackface minstrelsy was pioneered by George Washington Dixon and Thomas Dartmouth Rice in the 1830s and codified by Joel Walker Sweeney and Daniel Decatur Emmett (and the blackface troupes they founded) in the early 1840s, and thus represents the earliest comparatively accurate and extensive observation, description, and imitation of African American performance in the New World.

Keywords: blackface minstrelsy; creole synthesis; Caribbean; North America; New World; minstrelsy; James Henry Beard; Western Raftsmen; George Washington Dixon; Thomas Dartmouth Rice

Chapter.  21403 words. 

Subjects: American Music

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