Spike Lee’s Bamboozled and Blackface in American Culture

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About the Book

Spike Lee’s challenging film Bamboozled (2000) is often read as a surface level satire of blackface minstrelsy. Careful analysis, however, gives way to a complex and nuanced study of the history of black performance. This book analyzes the work of five men, minstrel performer Bert Williams, director Oscar Micheaux, writer Ralph Ellison, painter Michael Ray Charles, and director Spike Lee, all through the lens of this misunderstood film. Equal parts biography and cultural analysis, this book examines the intersections of these five artists and Bamboozled, and investigates their shared legacy of resistance against misrepresentation.

About the Author(s)

Elizabeth L. Sanderson teaches art history, Black world studies, and visual culture studies at Dominican University and Northern Illinois University. Her research focuses on racial and gendered satirical imagery in visual culture. She lives in Evanston, Illinois.

Bibliographic Details

Elizabeth L. Sanderson
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 224
Bibliographic Info: 21 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2019
pISBN: 978-1-4766-7863-4
eISBN: 978-1-4766-3695-5
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Preface 1

Introduction 7

Historiography 9

 1. Bert Williams: Minstrelsy, Vaudeville and Silent Film 23

 2. Oscar Micheaux 32

 3. Ralph Ellison 44

 4. Michael Ray Charles 59

 5. Spike Lee 79

 6. The Problem of the Color Line 92

 7. Bamboozled’s Reception 97

 8. Symbolic Naming and Casting Practices 106

 9. Signifyin’ 124

10. Invoking History 140

11. Narrative Structures 153

12. Keeping It Real: A Conclusion 185

Chapter Notes 189

Bibliography 205

Index 211