Definition of minstrel show in US English:

minstrel show


  • A popular stage entertainment featuring songs, dances, and comic dialogue in highly conventionalized patterns, usually performed by white actors in blackface. It developed in the US in the early and mid 19th century.

    • ‘In 1840, he presented Lane as part of a conventional minstrel show, without informing his patrons that the man behind the burnt cork was black.’
    • ‘The class watches clips from the 1936 film version of the musical, ‘Showboat,’ with its minstrel show stereotypes.’
    • ‘White minstrel shows depicting these ignorant creatures played to laughing audiences in New York and Chicago in the 1920s and '30s.’
    • ‘These parodies of serious drama and upper-class society were incorporated into an entertainment original to the United States, the formulaic minstrel show.’
    • ‘His analysis of the rhetoric of African-American culture and language in Negro minstrel shows is compelling.’
    • ‘The characters are drawn like minstrel show performers, including huge white lips.’
    • ‘Two weeks later, and perhaps entirely by coincidence, the Elks club of Lake City hosted a blackface minstrel show and urged attendees to ‘lay aside your worries, and enjoy the occasion.’’
    • ‘By his early 20s, he had toured in a traveling minstrel show as ‘Champion Boy Bag Puncher of the World,’ performed magic shows to put himself through Yale, and competed in pole vault in the 1908 London Olympics.’
    • ‘A minstrel show became four or so men in blackface doing rough and rowdy songs on banjo, fiddle, tambourine and clacking bones, interspersed with japes, skits and dancing, all purporting to be an accurate picture of black music and life.’
    • ‘Most of this was in vaudeville, where black casts replaced black-faced ones and performed the minstrel show songs and dances to delighted white audiences.’
    • ‘American popular comedy, from the earliest carnivals and minstrel shows through the heyday of vaudeville and burlesque, has always heaped scorn and ridicule on the solemn official cult of white Anglo-Saxon purity.’
    • ‘In the course of my research, I learned about the role the Irish played in the development of the black-faced minstrel show.’
    • ‘It's similar to young boys playing female parts in Shakespearean times or white actors being asked to black up for minstrel shows.’
    • ‘Black face and minstrel shows no longer exist, and what was ‘evil’ communism is now the ‘new-left’ fighting globalisation.’
    • ‘In this section the characters engage in a mock minstrel show that travels through the South and ironically enough sells the troupe into slavery to economically liberate these former slaves.’
    • ‘Bones playing came to Australia with white settlement, a legacy of the visiting American minstrel shows of the 1860's.’
    • ‘The whiteface minstrel show was, like the parallel but better-recorded blackface tradition, an adaptation of the vaudeville tradition where a character was easily recognizable as a type of his race.’
    • ‘The black and white minstrel show isn't so far back in our history.’
    • ‘Perhaps in a sense, this is the problem at the heart of the minstrel show itself: talented human beings must put on masks and become cartoons.’
    • ‘Although the Jim Crow character as a feature of minstrel shows became popular in the generation before the Civil War, early photographic images of people in blackface are quite rare.’