1st Edition

Staging Slavery Performances of Colonial Slavery and Race from International Perspectives, 1770-1850

Edited By Sarah J. Adams, Jenna M. Gibbs, Wendy Sutherland Copyright 2023
    318 Pages 14 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This international analysis of theatrical case studies illustrates the ways that theater was an arena both of protest and, simultaneously, racist and imperialist exploitations of the colonized and enslaved body.

    By bringing together performances and discussions of theater culture from various colonial powers and orbits—ranging from Denmark and France to Great Britain and Brazil—this book explores the ways that slavery and hierarchical notions of "race" and "civilization" manifested around the world. At the same time, against the backdrop of colonial violence, the theater was a space that also facilitated reformist protest and served as evidence of the agency of Black people in revolt. Staging Slavery considers the implications of both white-penned productions of race and slavery performed by white actors in blackface makeup and Black counter-theater performances and productions that resisted racist structures, on and off the stage.

    With unique geographical perspectives, this volume is a useful resource for undergraduates, graduates, and researchers in the history of theater, nationalism and imperialism, race and slavery, and literature.

    Introduction: Framing the Stage: Structures of Race, Imperial Oppression, and Performances of Blackness, 1770-1850

    Sarah J. Adams, Jenna M. Gibbs, and Wendy Sutherland

    Part 1: Slavery, Revolt, and Abolitionism

    1. Slavery, Abolition, and Civic Education in French Boulevard Theater during the French Revolution

    Anja Bandau

    2. The Legitimacy of Resistance in Dutch Abolitionist Theater

    Sarah J. Adams

    3. The Politics of Truth-Telling: Black Resistance and the Transatlantic World in Nesselrode’s Drama Adaptation of the Ziméo-Plot Zamor und Zoraide, 1778

    Sigrid G. Köhler

    4. "Our Turn Next": Slavery and Freedom on French and American Stages, 1789-1799

    Heather S. Nathans

    Part 2: Race, Nation, and Empire

    5. Staging Slavery "at Home": Race and Homosocial Economies in Ernst Lorenz Rathlef’s Die Mohrinn zu Hamburg, 1775

    Wendy Sutherland

    6. Performing The Revenge in Sydney: Blackface and Blackness in an Abolitionist Empire

    Kathleen Wilson

    7. The Representation of Stage "Blackness" in Theodor Körner’s Toni, 1812

    Mercy Vungthianmuang Guite

    8. "O pity the Black Man, he is Slave in Foreign Country": Danish Performances of Colonialism and Slavery, 1793-1848

    Sine Jensen Smed

    Part 3: Black Agency, Performance, and Counter-Theater

    9. Slavery as Part of the Scene: The Presence of Black and Mestizo Actors and Actresses at the Late Eighteenth-Century Vila Rica Opera House

    Mariana S. Mayor

    10. Counter-Voices in the Tropics: Theater and Vernacular Performance in Rio de Janeiro

    Britt Dams

    11. Protesting Slavery, Asserting Freedom, and Defying Racism: The African Grove Theatre in New York, 1821-1824

    Jenna M. Gibbs

    12. Epilogue: Staging Slavery, Re-Centering, and Re-Spotlighting Blackened People

    Tunde Adefioye


    Sarah J. Adams is an FWO-postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Literary Studies of Ghent University, where she studies blackface performances on the comic stage of the Low Countries before the heyday of minstrel culture. She is the author of Repertoires of Slavery (Amsterdam University Press, 2023).

    Jenna M. Gibbs is an Associate Professor of History at Florida International University. She is the author of Performing the Temple of Liberty (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014). Gibbs is now working on two monographs, one on the global Latrobe family and the other on the past and present African Grove Theatre.

    Wendy Sutherland is a Professor of German & Black European and Diaspora Studies at New College of Florida. She is the author of Staging Blackness and Performing Whiteness in Eighteenth-Century German Drama (Routledge, 2016). One of her current projects centers on mapping sites of slavery and colonialism in Germany.