Although both minstrel singing and blackface performance can be traced back to the Middle Ages, the origin of this American entertainment is usually credited to Thomas D. Rice, who was performing a "Jim Crow" song and dance in blackface by the 1830s. In 1843, a group calling itself the Virginia Minstrels began to set the pattern for a minstrel show, which was perfected by the long-lived Christy Minstrels. Numerous others followed, and after the Civil War , minstrelsy became a ready foothold for African Americans who wished to find a way into show business. Thus the latter part of the century saw a proliferation of "genuine" Ethiopian minstrels. Yet the stylized production values called for blackface or burnt cork makeup, even by black performers.
   The minstrel chorus wore identical bright-colored costumes, often shiny satin, cut in fancy evening dress style with top hats. They would sit in a semicircle, sometimes several rows deep, during the comic patter between the whiteface straight man called the Interlocutor and the two end-men, Tambo and Bones. A cakewalk culminated the songs and patter of the first part of the show. The second part comprised olio acts, often including a male in drag. The third part was a short play, either a "plantation spectacle" or a burlesque of well-known highbrow material.

The Historical Dictionary of the American Theater. .


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  • Minstrelsy — Min strel*sy, n. 1. The arts and occupation of minstrels; the singing and playing of a minstrel. [1913 Webster] 2. Musical instruments. [Obs.] Chaucer. [1913 Webster] 3. A collective body of minstrels, or musicians; also, a collective body of… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Minstrelsy — can refer to: The music and poetry of the medieval minstrels. The songs, dances, skits, and stagecraft of the 19th century American blackface minstrel show. This disambiguation page lists articles associated with the same title. If an …   Wikipedia

  • minstrelsy — (n.) c.1300, menstracie, music as produced on an instrument; action of making music for entertainment; musicians or entertainers generally, from Anglo Fr. menestralsie, from O.Fr. menestrel (see MINSTREL (Cf. minstrel)) …   Etymology dictionary

  • minstrelsy — [min′strəlsē] n. pl. minstrelsies [ME menestralcie < OFr menestralsie] 1. the art or occupation of a minstrel 2. a group of minstrels 3. a collection of minstrels ballads or songs …   English World dictionary

  • minstrelsy — /min streuhl see/, n. 1. the art or practice of a minstrel. 2. minstrels songs, ballads, etc.: a collection of Scottish minstrelsy. [1275 1325; ME minstralcie ( < AF menestralsie) < AL ministralcia, menestralcia. See MINSTREL, CY] * * * …   Universalium

  • minstrelsy — /ˈmɪnstrəlsi/ (say minstruhlsee) noun (plural minstrelsies) 1. the art or practice of a minstrel. 2. minstrels songs, ballads, etc.: a collection of Scottish minstrelsy. {Middle English mynstralsy, from Old French} …   Australian English dictionary

  • minstrelsy — noun Etymology: Middle English minstralcie, from Anglo French menestralsie, from menestral Date: 14th century 1. the singing and playing of a minstrel 2. a body of minstrels 3. a group of songs or verse …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • minstrelsy — noun a) The musical and other art and craft of a minstrel. b) A group of minstrels …   Wiktionary

  • minstrelsy — (Roget s IV) n. Syn. balladry, folk music, Lieder (German); see song …   English dictionary for students

  • minstrelsy — min·strel·sy || mɪnstrÉ™lsɪ n. group of traveling singers (Medieval); poesy, singing, playing of instruments; group of singers who often perform in black face …   English contemporary dictionary