#banjo and its inextricable legacy of racism and cultural appropriation 

With all the stuff I post here, One thing I haven't really addressed is its problematic legacy. It's interesting to learn, play and record instrumental songs published in banjo tutor books that were published from 1855-1900 or so, but they are interspersed with *virulently* racist popular tunes of the time period, when was the star instrument of blackface minstrelsy... 1/

#banjo and its inextricable legacy of racism and cultural appropriation 

...the banjo itself having been appropriated by white people from the same slaves who were the target of racist minstrel caricatures. It's a shitty legacy that's been largely whitewashed by the "banjo as a good old-timey all american instrument invented by folksy white people in appalachia" narrative that persists in country music. 2/

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#banjo and its inextricable legacy of racism and cultural appropriation 

I do believe that most people who get more than casually interested this music wrestle with what it means to preserve this music and continue performing it in the 21st century; minstrelsy is not a thing to be celebrated, but it's not a thing to be swept under the rug either. When presented unflinchingly in adequate historical context, I think there's potential to unpack a lot of stuff. 3/

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#banjo and its inextricable legacy of racism and cultural appropriation 

Unfortunately, the closest thing to 'adequate historical context' a lot of the time is civil war reenacting ...which is an overwhelmingly conservative white guy hobby that nods to history, but (in my experience on the fringes) is more about having an excuse to dress up in old-timey clothes, shoot guns, and drink on the weekends. 4/

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#banjo and its inextricable legacy of racism and cultural appropriation 

In that context minstrel music is part of a "good old days when it was OK to be racist even if you were against slavery" ethos. Anyway, what set me off was a post on another site I frequent from someone who appears to be heavy into the living history aspect of this music: dressing up in mid-1800s clothing and performing mid-1800s music on period style instruments, stopping just shy of actually putting on burnt cork... 5/

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#banjo and its inextricable legacy of racism and cultural appropriation 

..in their post, this person lamented that the world has become too hostile towards "this form of entertainment" and saying that they don't want to be blackballed from every industry. 😬 Like, yeah... if you go busking or audition for America's Got Talent dressed up as a 19th century minstrel and sing original lyrics in fake racist dialect, you're goddamn right the world is going to be hostile, as well it *should* be. 6/

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#banjo and its inextricable legacy of racism and cultural appropriation 

...Anyway, all of this is to try and say that, when I post these old tunes it is with an awareness of these issues; if you look up pretty much any of the sources I cite you're going to find awful, racist songs, so please understand that I do not celebrate those aspects of this music. I'm happy to talk about this stuff if you've come across my feed and are wondering WTF this is all about. 7/7

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