By Harry Justin Elam; David Krasner
An anthology of serious writings that explores the intersections of race, theater, and function in America.
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Extra info for African-American performance and theater history : a critical reader
Although Richard Yarborough describes Cassy as a “proud, willful, mixedblood woman who has been driven to infanticide by broken promises, sexual exploitation, and horrible suffering, Cassy resists her enslavement more ﬁercely and actively than any black character besides George Harris,”23 Cassy Uncle Tom’s Women 27 also exempliﬁes the Victorian image of the fallen woman. As previously noted, Cassy had been mistress to three men—one whom she loved and two whom she despised. Cassy is powerless to prevent her violations by her various masters.
As a stage presence, she is a white woman covered in blackness and freed to enact behaviors well outside of the realm of a proper woman’s etiquette. ”21 Even in the most stereotypical reading of Topsy, there is a representational excess: Topsy is still a stereotype, but she grows. Topsy was not, however, Stowe’s sole black creation, and she is only one of the three characters who I will consider here. Outside of the minstrel milieu in nineteenth century theater, mulatto women were almost always portrayed by white women in metaphoric blackface.
Stage adaptations of Uncle Tom’s Cabin were some of the ﬁrst plays that popularized this type of heroine. They included the story of the fair-skinned Eliza and George Harris, as well as the tragedies of Cassy and Emmeline. Of the three different types of black female characters that Stowe presents, the tragic mulatto ﬁgures were the most intelligent and the most sympathetic. Through these ﬁgures, she demonstrates the cost of slavery to the institution of motherhood. 22 Although Stowe uses the term mother without qualiﬁcation as though to indicate all slave mothers, in the novel she highlights the separation stories of only the fairer-skinned characters: Cassy, Eliza, Emmeline.