The Last “Darky”: Bert Williams, Black-on-Black Minstrelsy, by Louis Chude-Sokei

By Louis Chude-Sokei

The final “Darky” establishes Bert Williams, the comic of the past due 19th century and early 20th, as primary to the advance of a world black modernism founded in Harlem’s Renaissance. ahead of integrating Broadway in 1910 through a debatable stint with the Ziegfeld Follies, Williams was once already a world icon. but his identify has light into close to obscurity, his remarkable accomplishments forgotten principally simply because he played in blackface. Louis Chude-Sokei contends that Williams’s blackface used to be now not a show of internalized racism nor a submission to the expectancies of the instant. It was once an appropriation and exploration of the contradictory and probably releasing strength of racial stereotypes.

Chude-Sokei makes the an important argument that Williams’s minstrelsy negotiated where of black immigrants within the cultural hotbed of recent York urban and used to be replicated through the African diaspora, from the Caribbean to Africa itself. Williams used to be born within the Bahamas. while acting the “darky,” he was once really masquerading as an African American. This black-on-black minstrelsy therefore challenged emergent racial structures equating “black” with African American and marginalizing the various diasporic blacks in long island. It additionally dramatized the perform of passing for African American universal between non-American blacks in an African American–dominated Harlem. Exploring the idea of figures similar to Booker T. Washington, W. E. B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey, and Claude McKay, Chude-Sokei situates black-on-black minstrelsy on the middle of burgeoning modernist discourses of assimilation, separatism, race militancy, carnival, and internationalism. whereas those discourses have been engaged with the query of representing the “Negro” within the context of white racism, via black-on-black minstrelsy they have been additionally deployed opposed to the starting to be overseas impression of African American tradition and politics within the 20th century.

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