Singing the Master: TheEmergence of African-American Culture in the Plantation South; Roger D. Abrahams

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“Impressive…A scrupulously researched work enlarging our understanding of an integral aspect of slave culture.”–- The Washington Post Book World

What was it like to be a slave on a plantation of the antebellum South? How did the fiction of the happy slave and myth of the plantation “family” evolve? How did slaves create a performance style that unified them, while simultaneously entertaining and mocking the master?

The answers to these questions may be found in the groundbreaking study of the corn-shucking ceremonies of the prewar South, where white masters played host to local slaves and watched their “guests” perform exuberant displays of singing and dancing. Drawing on the detailed written and oral histories of masters, slaves, and Northern commentators, distinguished folklorist Roger Abrahams peels through layers of racism and nostalgia surrounding this celebration to uncover its true significance in the lives and imagination of both blacks and whites – and in the evolution of an enduring African-American culture.

May 5, 1992

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