Minstrel shows were a popular form of entertainment from the 1830s up until the early 20th century. Music, dance and comic skits were typically performed by a white actor in blackface, and much of the humour derived from the promulgation of offensive stereotypes that depicted blacks as lazy, dim-witted buffoons. Minstrel show performers would also ape AAVE which had many similarities to Southern American English (see note for page 81). The comparison highlights the fact that Quentin’s anxieties over the shifting status of African Americans are rooted in fear over the lack of fixity in his own racial identity.
Watch a 1950s blackface performance by Glenn Vernon and Edward Ryan.