Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name




Degree Program

History, MA

Committee Chair

Kelland, Lara

Committee Co-Chair (if applicable)

Fleming, Tyler

Committee Member

Fleming, Tyler

Committee Member

Anderson, David

Author's Keywords

race; white supremacy; blackface minstrelsy; Joseph Seamon Cotter, Sr.; literature; theater


This thesis explores the century-long theatrical expression of blackface minstrelsy within the larger context of the United States, but specifically studies its popularity in Louisville, Kentucky from 1878 to 1925. This study is meant to bring to the fore the pervasiveness of blackface minstrelsy, and how it was used to demean, degrade, and oppress African American populations before, during, and well after Emancipation. This work is not meant to memorialize the craft of minstrelsy, however, but rather attempts to show how black individuals of the time were actively working to both reclaim the detrimental stereotypes of blackface minstrelsy, while also intentionally creating a new dialogue in their literature and artistry as a form of racial uplift. This thesis follows the life of a black Louisville artist Joseph Seamon Cotter, Sr., who used his writing to confront minstrel tropes, establish a conception of a modern black individual, and uplift his community.