Musical Theatre

During the origination of the Musical Theatre genre. There were still strong ties to minstrelsy in the performances. Performers often still performed in Black face and made overtly obnoxious implications about Black people. Choreographically the dance steps were still moves that were distinctive of minstrel shows and the lyrics of many popular tunes had underlying messages that were filled with racism. Songs like Old Dan Tucker, Turkey in the Straw and Oh Susanna were examples of songs with dark hidden messages. Old Dan Tucker was written by Bruce Springsteen. This song emphasized the strong sense of hyper-masculinity that racists saw in Black men, because of how strong and hardworking they were. Lyrics like,

” Tucker was a hardened sinner,He nebber said his grace at dinner;De ole sow squeel, de pigs did squallHe ‘hole hog wid de tail and all.”

made black men out to be more animal like than human. The dehumanization of Black people was a tactic to excuse the inhumane and unjust acts against us. This was a common trend in minstrelsy, because the purpose of the show was really to make racism funny, light, and justifiable. In their eyes lyrics in songs like Old Dan Tucker did just that.

Turkey in the Straw was written and composed by David W. Guion in the late 1800’s as an American Folk song. This song also had underlying racist origins. There are versions of the songs with tittles like “Nigger Love a Watermelon” and “Zip Coon” The worst part about the racism in this song, is that it became so popularized and is constantly played by ice cream trucks. It is tune that so many American children know with out knowing the real meaning. The real meaning of this song is again about the animalizing of black humans, which is utterly disgusting. Lastly Oh Susanna is an extremely popular song written by Stephen Foster in the mid 1800’s. The lyrics in this song tell a story of a Black slave that has worked her through the hard sun and made a trek from Alabama ” with a banjo on (his) knee”. the lyrics beg “susanna” “don’t you cry for me” It creates the idea that Blacks are just fit to endure the pains that we do, again taking away our emotions as a human.

The implications of the contemporary performances of such repertoire are detriment to the society. The commodification and popularization of racist ideals is a sick way to get in the minds of children and younger generations that do not have these outdated beliefs.

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