Black Musical Theater

The growth in participation of African Americans in musical theater evolved naturally. Theater was an outgrowth of religious rituals and communal story telling that allowed African Americans to express themselves creatively.

Origin of Black Musical Theater

Minstrel Shows 

The minstrel show was a form of theatrical entertainment that featured performers in blackface. These performers would showcase songs, dances, and comical skits based on stereotypes of African American life. African Americans began to enter theater through the rapidly growing number of minstrel troupes. The minstrel show, which seems to have a repulsive racist format, appeared to African Americans as an opportunity to overturn the message that was typically displayed in minstrel shows.

 

Evolution of Black Musical Theater

Opera 

African Americans began to make efforts to associate themselves with more lavish forms of entertainment. They created full on opera productions that attracted an audience within the African American community. 

Virginia’s Ball created by John Thomas Douglass is deemed to be one of the first operas by an African American composer.

 

Vaudeville 

Vaudeville was a form of theater that consisted of various unrelated performing acts. These acts included actors, singers, dancers, acrobats, comedians, even trained animals, and many more. 

Current Examples of Black Musical Theater