Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Liberal Studies


Karen R. Miller

Subject Categories

Africana Studies | Musicology | United States History


africa lyrics minstrel vaudeville


References to Africa exist in different forms in diasporic music from every country in the New World. In the case of the United States, an abundance of song lyrics of black writers and musicians from the turn of the twentieth century contain imaginings of the African continent. This thesis analyzes the many ways that these depictions were produced within the minstrel and vaudeville genres. While these artists faced many obstacles that limited the scope of their lyrical content, they used diverse strategies to undermine the racist world in which they lived. By juxtaposing and conflating tropes about black folks in America and Africa as a continent, these artists brought problematic and injurious worldviews to the surface, exposing them for their lack of insight and hypocritical nature. Following specific thematic threads, this paper will show how and why these tropes and motifs emerged, and how they were put to use.