feasting and dancing-Music played a central part in English culture at this time. Manuscripts contain many images of musicians and musical instruments, but also show the range of settings in which music was performed. This included religious rituals such as the daily cycle of prayers performed by monks, and also non-religious settings such as banquets, balls, tournaments and fairs.
This rare photograph shows a Union army camp scene where soldiers are entertained by a group of African American minstrel performers. Touring minstrel groups were typically composed of whites who performed in blackface, but some were made up of blacks. It would interesting to know if the group members here were free blacks - either from the northern or slave states - or if they were so-called contrabands.
Racist Symbols At the turn of the century, African Americans were most often portrayed in a very racist manner. The image above is a lithograph advertising a Minstrel show, which is a typical racist image of the day. The black man is portrayed as a fat lazy man, guarding his watermelon patch. Three black children are shown attempting to steal the black man's watermelons. The image was created by the Strobridge Lithograph company in 1900, and portrays Blacks in a very negative manner.
Part two (the olio) was the variety section and a precursor to vaudeville. It included singers, dancers, comedians, and other novelty acts, and parodies of legitimate theater. A preposterous stump speech served as the highlight of this second act, during which a performer spoke in outrageous malapropisms as he lectured. His demeanor was reminiscent of the hilarious pomposity of Zip Coon; he aspired to great wisdom and intelligence, but his hilarious mangling of language always made him…