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  1. 1. African American Males in Dance, Music, Theater, and Film<br />I. Peter Ukpokodu<br />(May 2000)<br />
  2. 2. learning objectives<br /> To consider the ways in which the African American male’s presence/absence has shaped the history of American entertainment<br />To better understand several entertainment genres & periods influenced by African American males<br />To recognize some of the major African American male contributors, innovators & institutes in diverse entertainment fields<br />
  3. 3. Ukpokodu’s thesis<br />“…African American males have contributed immensely to develop, sustain, and enhance the American entertainment enterprise in the areas of dance, theater, film, and music. As a child of two worlds – Africa and America – the African American male has been influenced by the vitality of the American and African cultures and experiences in creating a unique entertainment history.” (133)<br />
  4. 4. entertainment fields<br />Dance <br />minstrelsy, vaudeville, modern, & contemporary<br />Music<br />Spirituals, blues, jazz, & popular music<br />Theater<br />Early, Harlem Renaissance, Great Depression, Postdepression, Radical, & Recent<br />Film<br />Pioneers, postwar, & post-1980s<br />
  5. 5. slavery & dance<br />In some voyages to America, slaves were forced to dance to improvised music as a form of health therapy<br />Some slaves entertained their masters through dance<br />Some masters required slaves to dance for other plantations <br />either as a gesture of friendship <br />or as a means of financial gain<br />
  6. 6. minstrelsy<br />Griots– African minstrels, oral historians, counselors, genealogists, & performers<br />Blackface minstrelsy<br /><br />Jim Crow dance<br />Originally performed by a physically deformed, old African American <br />Eventually imitated by Thomas D. Rice, a white American performer<br />Master Juba was first African American blackface performer<br />Irish jig & clog dancing integrated into black dance to create tap dancing.<br />
  7. 7. vaudeville<br />Minstrelsy & tap dancing were subsumed by vaudeville by the end of the 19th century.<br />Williams & Walker <br />popularized the cakewalk<br />starred in In Dahomey, In Abyssinia, and Bandanna Land.<br />A few other big names: Buck & Bubbles, Billy Bailey, “Slow Kid” Thompson & Bill “Bojangles” Robinson…<br /><br />
  8. 8. modern & contemporary dance<br />Pioneer of modern dance: Hemsley Winfield<br />New Negro Art Theatre Dance Group<br />Shuffle Along<br />“New Negro” philosophy of Harlem Renaissance<br />The Charleston came into vogue in the 1920s…<br /><br />Lindy hop<br /><br />Jitterbug<br /><br />
  9. 9. contemporary dance<br />Post-civil rights era <br />Pan-African cultural events:<br />Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC ‘77) – Lagos, Nigeria<br />Alvin Ailey became the leader for African American contemporary choreography.<br /><br />A few other big choreographers:<br />Talley Beatty, Donald McKayle, Gus Solomons, Jr., & Arthur Mitchell<br />
  10. 10. dance – 80’s and beyond<br />Breakdance<br /><br />Moonwalking<br /><br />Hip Hop<br /><br />
  11. 11. music<br />“Musical legacy is perhaps the most significant African American contribution to the development of American culture and of the entertainment industry.” (136)<br />Spirituals<br />Ring shouts, Map, & Alert Spirituals<br />Blues<br />Jazz<br />Popular <br />R&B, Rock & Rap<br />
  12. 12. spirituals<br />Began as an expression of Christian religious sentiment during the slavery<br />“Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen”<br />“Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”<br />“Go Tell it on the Mountain”<br />Ring shouts – ceremonial, ecstatic collective dance<br />Map spirituals – served as geographical guides for escape<br />“Follow the Drinking Gourd”<br />Alert Spirituals – served as a warning during secret meetings<br /> “I’m Packin Up”<br />
  13. 13. ragtime & blues<br />Ragtime’s heavy use of syncopation literally changed the beat of a variety of American musical styles<br />Scott Joplin popularized the piano form.<br />Blues with its expression of the “misery, sorrow, and the vicissitudes of life” offer the performer and listener an “emotional purgation” (136).<br />First blues composition by William Christopher Handy , 1912, St. Louis Blues.<br />Since, the blues have taken off – and in several directions.<br />
  14. 14. jazz<br />Stewart’s & Ukpokodu’s equation: <br />Ragtime + blues + big band + syncopated dance music + repertory of slave songs = JAZZ <br />Birthplace: New Orleans<br />A few influential subgenres:<br />Swing, bebop, cool jazz, West Coast jazz, third stream, hard bop, free jazz, jazz rock/fusion<br />A few big names:<br />Ellington, Hampton, Baise, Callloway, Gillespie, Charlie Parker, & Miles Davis.<br />
  15. 15. popular music<br />Dominant styles:<br />rhythm & blues (R&B)<br />“earthy & realistic” lyrics<br />roots in boogie-woogie blues, gospel & swing<br />Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson<br />soul music<br />Expanded R&B<br />Prominent in 60’s & 70’s<br />Often focused on political & social issues<br />James Brown’s “Say it Loud, I’m Black and Proud”<br />pop solo acts<br />Hendrix, Prince, Michael Jackson<br />Rap<br />Originator AfrikaBambaataa<br />Diverse forms ranging from urban to inspirational…<br />
  16. 16. theater -early<br />Early dramatists<br />before any black theaters existed, William Wells Brown was writing plays to be performed at public gatherings.<br />The Escape, or A Leap to Freedom (1858), first published play by an African American<br />Early theater companies<br />1912 – Lester Walton formed Lafayette Theater Stock Players in Harlem<br />1916 – Karamu Theatre (OH) was an integrated theater<br />
  17. 17. theater – 20s through 40s<br />1920s <br />Harlem performers & producers , inspired by and inspiring the New Negro philosophy, created a flourish of productions<br />Noble Sissle, Eubie Blake, Galrand Anderson, Willis Richardson, W.E.B. Dubois (Krigwa Players), Langston Hughes (Mulatto & Mother and Child)<br />Great Depression <br />Federal Theater Project<br />Harlem Suitcase Theater, Negro People’s Theatre, & New Negro Theatre<br />Postdepression<br />Often focused upon expressing the reality of the African American experience<br />Negro Playwrights Company<br />Theatrical production of Richard Wright’s Native Son<br />
  18. 18. theater – radical<br />Radical Dramaturgy<br />Exposed the tensions & anger building in African American community<br />Major figure: ImamuAmiri Baraka <br />Black Arts Theater<br />The Slave, Dutchman, & The Toilet<br />Other figures: Ossie David, Adrienne Kennedy, Lonnie Elder III, Douglas Turner<br />Rituals – a new form of theater combining radical ideology, Christian liturgy, music, dance & life experience<br />
  19. 19. theater – recent <br />Major works<br />August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Fences, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, & The Piano Lesson<br />Other influential playwrights<br />Charles Fuller, Ron Milner, George C. Wolfe, Bill Gun, Garland Thompson, Lonne Elder III, Steve Carter<br />Key theater companies<br />The Crossroads Theater, The New Federal Theater, Negro Ensemble Company<br />
  20. 20. film - early<br />In early films, African Americans were represented by white actors<br />Infamous example: Griffith’s Birth of a Nation (1915)<br />Sam Lucas was first African American to play a lead (Uncle Tom) in Uncle Tom’s Cabin.<br />Stereotyped African American roles:<br />the pickaninny, Rastus, Uncle Remus, Uncle Tom, the tragic mulatto, the mammy, the brutal black, the jesters, and the servants (Bogle 1994)<br />
  21. 21. film – pioneers <br />Lincoln Motion Picture Company (1916)<br />Founded by George & Noble Johnson<br />Produced films where African Americans were featured performers<br />1920’s companies<br />Renaissance Film Company, Lone Star, Democracy Photoplay Corporation & Micheaux Film & Book Co.<br />1930’s actors<br />Eubie Blake, Noble Sissle, Cab Calloway, Paul Robeson (The Emperor Jones), & Clarence Brooks (Arrowsmith)<br />
  22. 22. postwar film<br />“After World War II, a more tolerant view of the African American male became visible in films” (142).<br />Key Figure & Film<br />Sidney Poitier – Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner<br />Other major early actors<br />Harry Belafonte, Gordon Parks, Sr. , & Sammy Davis<br />60’s & 70’s counter-culture: <br />Melvin Van Peeble’sSweet Sweetback’sBaadasss Song<br />Gordon Parks, Sr.’s Shaft<br />Gordon Parks, Jr.’sSuperfly<br />Blaxploitation Films<br />
  23. 23. contemporary film <br />A few of big names<br />Spike Lee<br />Denzel Washington<br />Samuel L. Jackson<br />Richard Pryor<br />Will Smith<br /> Martin Lawrence<br />Tyler Perry<br />Eddie Murphy<br />
  24. 24. learning objectives<br /> To consider the ways in which the African American male’s presence/absence has shaped the history of American entertainment<br />To better understand several entertainment genres & periods influenced by African American males<br />To recognize some of the major African American male contributors, innovators & institutes in diverse entertainment fields<br />