In this presentation, Kristin Moriah analyzes the contributions of 19th-century African-American women performers in domestic and international contexts through teh reading of plays, novels, performance reviews, and journalistic accounts of the reception of their performances. Her study also considers representations of black women found on sheet music, playbills, and broadsides. These documents illuminate the cultural context from which early African-American women’s stage performaces emerged and the prejudices they sought to overcome. The complexiities surrounding their performances are manifold; Moriah argues that they reflect a deep understanding of the transgressive social and political uses of black femininity and were thus instrumental to the formation of a post-slavery black identity in 19th-century America. These women’s performances were always political. However, the stage-work of women like Elizabeth Greenfield, Sissieretta Jones, Pauline Hopkins, Mary Webb, and Ida B. Wells pointedly undermined mainstream representations and notions of black womanhood and became powerful weapons in the war against institutionalized racism and racial violence, like lynching. In the words of Koritha Mitchell, 19th-century African-American women performers embodied practices of black belonging.
Kristin Moriah presents at 2:45pm on Saturday March 3rd, 2012 in Heimbold Visual Arts Center.