"to join a minstrel troupe"
Minstrel poster (1896)
Public DomainMinstrel poster (1896) - Credit: Storbridge Lithographing Co., Cincinnati & New York

Minstrel shows, a form of entertainment which included comic skits, singing, dancing and variety acts, were popular during the 19th and early 20th Centuries in both Britain and America. The performers were black, or otherwise white people using the theatrical make-up known as blackface.

For example, two black troupes known as the Original African Opera Troupe and The Ohio Minstrels (a group of ex-slaves) performed at the Tyne Concert Hall in Newcastle during the 1860s.

During the 20th Century, the use of blackface, with its racist and derogatory connotations, became increasingly unacceptable; however the British television series The Black and White Minstrel Show, which featured performers in blackface, was broadcast as late as 1978 when the programme was finally discontinued. 


Singers in blackface on sheet music (1900)
Public DomainSingers in blackface on sheet music (1900) - Credit: unknown