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Sissle, Blake and the Minstrel Tradition

Semester and Year SP 2017
Course Number IDSEM-UG1440
Section 001
Instructor Michael Dinwiddie
Days F
Time 11:00 AM - 1:45 PM
Units 2
Level U
Requirement   HUM


Course meets during the last seven weeks only, First Class: March 24; Last Class: May 5.


This course will explore the conflicting ideologies apparent in the works of Noble Sissle and James Hubert “Eubie” Blake. Famed for such hit musicals as “Shuffle Along” and “Chocolate Dandies,” Sissle and Blake formed one of the most successful musical theatre collaborations of the 1920’s. Their work draws strongly on the minstrel tradition in African American theatre, and attempts to subvert many of its conventions. It may be argued that their commercial success had the opposite effect, and served to update and modernize the very theatre conventions they sought to destroy. We will examine the effect of Sissle and Blake’s oeuvre on musical theatre in general and African American musicals in particular. Readings may include  Black Musical Theatre: From Coontown to Dreamgirls  by Allen Woll,  Black Drama  by Loften Mitchell, with excerpts from  Terrible Honesty  by Mary Douglas,  Blacks in Blackface  by Henry T. Sampson,  Reminiscing with Sissle and Blake  by Robert Kimball, and essays by W.E.B. DuBois and Alain Locke. Archival sound and film footage will be utilized along with such works as Spike Lee’s film  Bamboozled .


All Syllabi

Course Type

Interdisciplinary Seminars (IDSEM-UG)