Vol. 6 No. 2 Dec. 2022

Masking "My Face," Unmasking "My Soul": Bert Williams's Double Consciousness, Carnivalesque Inversion, and Nobodiness
Author:Jia Zhang    Time:2023-01-03    Click:

Masking “My Face,” Unmasking “My Soul”: Bert Williams’s Double Consciousness, Carnivalesque Inversion, and Nobodiness

Jia Zhang

Page 099-108

Abstract: Known as the representative figure of black minstrelsy, Bert Williams’s revolutionary success on Broadway and in the Ziegfeld Follies created a landmark opportunity for black voices to be heard in high-profile setting in a white world. The performance most notably preferred by his white audiences was Williams’s minstrel song “Nobody,” which from Williams’s perspective was also an irreplaceable piece. Visually echoing his minstrel song, Williams’s cakewalk performance success in the 1890s laid the basis for the song’s popularity. Both the song and Williams’s carnivalesque performance blurred the color line and transcended black minstrel stereotypes by taking African Americans’ voices in the Jim Crow and lynching eras into serious consideration. However, though black minstrelsy has been largely misunderstood as exclusively racial stereotypes, what Bakhtin describes as the permeating carnivalesque inversion in black minstrel performance helps sharpen and clarify the double consciousness ideology between the burnt cork blackened face mask and the soul of black minstrel performers.

Keywords: Bert Williams, black minstrelsy, “Nobody,” double consciousness, carnivalesque inversion

Doi: 10.53397/hunnu.jflc.202202009

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