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The Slave Whisperer Rides The Frontier: Horseface Minstrelsy In The Western

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Chapter Summary

By transferring the traits of the Uncle Tom stereotype onto the stereotypical western horse, the genre western addresses the "Negro problem" by expunging African Americans from the construction of a new cultural identity within the context of the "untrammeled" postbellum space of the western frontier. Like the white performer in blackface, when a horse exhibits trick behavior or personality traits that are not an earnest reflection of "horseness," that horse performs an act of horseface minstrelsy. In terms of the function of this new horse stereotype, such horseface performances result in a condition in which any sort of genuine relationship that might exist between the human and the horse is subverted in favor of a jig-dancing, trick-performing caricature of the animal used solely for the purposes of entertainment, or to reflect upon the character of the human protagonist.

Keywords: African Americans; horseface minstrelsy; Negro problem; Uncle Tom; western frontier

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