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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

An instrument proper to them: Representations of the banjo in African American art and the evolution of the image from the nineteenth to the twentieth century
by Landon, Caroline, M.A., California State University, Long Beach, 2016, 54; 10155537
Abstract (Summary)

The themes of music and musicality have always been common in African American Art. These representations, in particular those with the banjo, draw into question how this musical instrument acted as a tool used to convey and perpetuate several demeaning stereotypes. These stereotypes, including but not limited to the Sambo and the Uncle, are seen repeatedly in minstrel show advertisements as well as fine art painting. Working in chronological order, I analyze how these stereotypes were manifested in selected artworks and showcase how the image of the black man with a banjo changed and/or did not change over time. I argue that nostalgia and fear of social change were driving forces in the continuing representation of black people as these derogatory personas. Of notable mention are two prominent African American artists, Henry Ossawa Tanner and Aaron Douglas, who with daring and groundbreaking visual choices contributed to the transition away from the stereotypes and encouraged new ways to represent black men with banjos.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Simms, Matthew
Commitee: Cooks, Bridget, Kleinfelder, Karen
School: California State University, Long Beach
Department: Art
School Location: United States -- California
Source: MAI 56/01M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Subjects: African American Studies, Art history
Keywords: African American, Art, Banjo
Publication Number: 10155537
ISBN: 978-1-369-10611-4
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