Minstrelsy in the News

The primary source that I looked into for today was a republication of an article from the Little Rock Gazette from the year 1880. It was actually printed in the Topeka Tribune which claimed to be the sole colored publication in the state of Kansas. The title read, “A Prodigy In The Pulpit. A Boy Who Creates a Sensation by Preaching Lorenzo Dow’s Sermon” and the validity of the story told is arguable. The article itself was located on the fourth/last page of the tribune along with a number of reprinted articles from various newspapers nation-wide. Rather than search key-words such as “minstrelsy” I decided to search words associated with the topic and landed on “burnt-cork”. Oliver, the white boy the article centers around, utilizes components of black-face such as blackening his skin with burnt cork and donning a minstrel wig to swindle a black congregation out of their money. It was, in a way, refreshing to see minstrelsy contextualized by people who were living during the era. The story ends with the condemnation of Oliver who is publicly lashed once discovered to be a fraud. This particular lens of condemnation and specifically retribution I found captivating in that I had yet to hear such conversations of minstrelsy. Sentiments expressed in the article are clearly aimed at a black audience as the anger which turned to violence could have been a true story however the sensationalized air of the article warrants it to be more of a cautionary tale. My reasoning in particular as to why I believe the article to be false is that I don’t find it very likely that no one in the congregation would not be able to discern that the young preacher was in fact in blackface and wearing a wig. Second, I found the use of the word “prodigy” ironic which is what I assume the author’s intention to be. 


**I will link the article below as my computer had difficulties uploading the jpeg


Works Cited
“A Prodigy In The Pulpit. A Boy Who Creates a Sensation by Preaching Lorenzo Dow’s.” Topeka Tribune (Topeka, Kansas), November 6, 1880: 4. Readex: African American Newspapers. https://infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/readex/doc?p=EANAAA&docref=image/v2:13136344DDA00C28@EANAAA-131804FFA368D5A8@2408026-1318015A95D18A70@3-138BB10AE9049AA0.

Leave a Reply