Welcome to Scribd. Sign in or start your free trial to enjoy unlimited e-books, audiobooks & documents.Find out more
Standard view
Full view
of .
Look up keyword
Like this
1Activity
0 of .
Results for:
No results containing your search query
P. 1
Examine the influence of African American female performers in issues regarding gender, race and sexual equality in the industry in which they work and discuss the effects the changes these women pioneered helped push towards black equality.

Examine the influence of African American female performers in issues regarding gender, race and sexual equality in the industry in which they work and discuss the effects the changes these women pioneered helped push towards black equality.

Ratings: (0)|Views: 9|Likes:
An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards (Ireland) Competition by Peter Coulter. Originally submitted for Drama and Modern History at Queen University Belfast, with lecturer Professor Catherine Clinton in the category of Historical Studies
An essay for the 2011 Undergraduate Awards (Ireland) Competition by Peter Coulter. Originally submitted for Drama and Modern History at Queen University Belfast, with lecturer Professor Catherine Clinton in the category of Historical Studies

More info:

Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Sep 01, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

Availability:

Read on Scribd mobile: iPhone, iPad and Android.
See more
See less

10/27/2013

 
1
Examine the influence of African American female performers in issuesregarding gender, race and sexual equality in the industry in which theywork and discuss the effects the changes these women pioneered helpedpush towards black equality.
In this essay I will examine the contribution of female performers in the United States of America and how they assisted in improving the country’s race relations. I will examineif these women pioneered these changes themselves or were simply the symbol of changewhich was inspired by other players. I will look at whether these women wanted to be part of these changes or whether they were forced into them. In this essay I will look atthe careers of four women, Ella Sheppard, Gladys Bentley, Marian Anderson and ArethaFranklin, the challenges that they faced and the opportunities that they created for others.Ella Sheppard is the first African American performer that I will be examining inthis essay; Sheppard is one of a few internationally successful singers who was a bornslave. Sheppard was born a slave in 1851 on Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage plantation, her father who had bought his own freedom by hiring himself out, was able to buy Ella’sfreedom at three years of age. Sheppard was the one of the first generation of AfricanAmericans to suffer the racist attitudes in a post slavery era. This began when she wastaking music lessons and to enter the music teachers house by the “back door after dark.”
1
When her father died and left her penniless she took a few jobs washing and ironing before entering Fisk University. When at the University she came to the attention of volunteer tutor George Leonard White who gave her music lessons. White recognised“that music had served as an important mode of resistance and consolation during his
1
D Sterling,
We Are Your Sisters: Black Women in the Nineteenth Century
, (New York, 1997) p. 383
 
2students’ enslavement.”
2
The performance was slave songs was not something the slaveswere initially keen on. “We did not ever dream of using them in public. Had Mr. Whitesuggested such a thing, we certainly had rebelled”
3
but the audience response led them to perform slave songs more often. This initial rebellion Sheppard speaks of is interesting asit would have been one of the first occasions that she would have rebelled against a whiteman. Ella was placed in a group called the Jubilee singers, which White toured to thenorth to raise money for the university.The Jubilee Singers began to except appearance offers across the world and performed in a number of different countries. They performed for Queen Victoria andPrince Frederick of Germany. One school of thought would argue that the presence of these black singers across Europe benefited the black cause immensely and gave them alot of exposure. I feel that exploitation is very much an element in Whites relationshipwith the singers. I see them being used by White (a white man) who uses their curiosityvalue in order to raise money for the University. The singers do appear to have been well paid and that perhaps is a credit to White and a testimony to the crowds they attracted.White would not have been able to travel in the same carriages as the singers or even stayin the same hotels. The Jubilee Singers then became known for singing slave songs.Although this may be seen as role reinforcement, some positives can be taken in terms of the advancement of black horizons. Sheppard was able to see how people lived in Europeand how well the blacks were treated there. When an “exhausted and exasperated”
4
Whiteresigned, Sheppard took the opportunity to step up and direct the group. Historian
2
PBS page on George White, (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/singers/peopleevents/pande05.html) (13th November 2009)
3
D Sterling, p. 385
4
A Ward,
 Ella Sheppard 1851-1915
th
 November 2009)
 
3Dorothy Sterling noted that Sheppard went on to “lecture frequently on Negrowomanhood”
5
 which would have inspired younger African American women and showedthem that they could achieve more. When evaluating Sheppard’s success it is clear thatshe may initially have been being used to make money for the University but her talentand intellect won through and led to her having a successful career and give inspiration tothe next generation of young black women.In the 1920s a young African American woman had just ran away from home andarrived in New York and became synonymous with ‘Hot Harlem.’ Gladys Bentley wasone of the first openly lesbian performers. Bentley’s career is interesting in that, she wasnot as successful as some of the other performers I will be looking at, but her career took a different direction. She fought for different things. She made her name as a maleimpersonator and by openly flaunting her lesbian sexuality. She would often be seen inThe Cotton Club or the Clam House in her white tuxedo, performing her rather rude actand would often be heard whistling at women in the audience. Bentley’s career never really moved outside New York. Ella Sheppard and Marian Anderson both achieved hugesuccess in Europe and perhaps Bentley could have made her fortune in a more liberalEurope. Instead she stayed in New York and worked on her niche market in thedowntown gay bars. Bentley was ahead of her times in terms of race and gender relationsas she publicly flaunted her marriage to her white female lover. This led to Bentley beingregularly featured in the gossip columns. However Bentley’s career took a downturnduring the stock market crash of 1929 which dealt a severe blow to Harlem’s night life.Bentley still managed to prolong her career in the 1930s. “In this decade Bentley was
5
D Sterling, p. 392

You're Reading a Free Preview

Download
scribd
/*********** DO NOT ALTER ANYTHING BELOW THIS LINE ! ************/ var s_code=s.t();if(s_code)document.write(s_code)//-->