Author

Janaiya Banks

Date of Award

5-19-2019

Document Type

Honors Thesis

Department

Africana Studies

First Advisor

Patrica van Leeuwaarde Moonsammy

Language

English

Abstract

When minstrel shows were created in the 1830’s, they emerged under the claims of being entertainment that showcased black slave life. This entertainment was supposed to serve as a direct representation of black slaves and blackness, for white America, However, the true purpose of the creation of the minstrel show was to be able to control, police and perpetuate the negative narrative of black people in America in response to rising white anxieties and fears of black social and political progression. The characters in the minstrel show, which showcased black people as degenerate and deviant, were effective in making sure this narrative continued. In 1978, Arnold Shapiro, the producer of Scared Straight! followed this character framework of the deviant and degenerate black person and crafted a documentary that would highlight these negative characteristics. Almost 40 years later, Shapiro returned with Beyond Scared Straight, and continued to push out the narrative of the degenerate and deviant black person. The minstrel show, Scared Straight! and Beyond Scared Straight, were all created to sustain a practice of American Africanism, that is the practice of crafting a negative version of blackness to quell white anxieties and fears.

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