Introduction: Disintegrating the Musical
Peter Noble, The Negro in Films (1948; reprint, Port Washington, N.Y.:
Kennikat Press, 1969), 49.
For more on (inter)racial social-problem films—e.g., Home of the Brave
and Pinky—see Ralph Ellison, ‘‘The Shadow and the Act’’ (1949), in
Shadow and Act (New York: Vintage, 1972), 273–81; Michael Rogin,
Blackface, White Noise (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996);
and Aaron Baker, ‘‘From Second String to Solo Star: Classic Hollywood
and the Black Athlete,’’ in Daniel Bernardi, ed., Classic Hollywood, Clas-
sic Whiteness (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2001), 31–
51. Donald Crafton claims that the first black-cast drama was North of
Dixie (Paramount, 1929), but this film seems to have been lost (The
Talkies: American Cinema’s Transition to Sound, 1926–1931 [New York:
Scribner’s, 1997], 403–6). The first still extant black-cast drama is Bright
Road (mgm, 1953).
The musical is a peripheral presence in the five foundational texts of
the contemporary study of African Americans in American film: Daniel
Leab’s From Sambo to Superspade: The Black Experience in Motion Pic-
tures (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1975) dismisses the musical as a genre.
Donald Bogle’s popular and influential Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mam-
mies, and Bucks, new third edition (New York: Continuum, 1994 [1973])
gives them only brief consideration. In his three volumes, Slow Fade to
Black: The Negro in American Film, 1900–1942 (New York: Oxford Uni-
versity Press, 1977); Black Film as Genre (Bloomington: Indiana Univer-
sity Press, 1978); and Making Movies Black: The Hollywood Message Movie
from World War II to the Civil Rights Era (New York: Oxford Univer-
sity Press, 1993), Thomas Cripps provides more extensive and nuanced
consideration of music and musical performance, especially in the late
twenties and early thirties, but his focus on creating a broad sociocul-
tural history precludes extensive formal analysis of a single genre. More
recent books continuing the study of African Americans in sound film—
Manthia Diawara, ed., Black American Cinema (New York: Routledge,
1993); Ed Guerrero, Framing Blackness: The African American Image in
Film (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1993); Mark Reid, Redefin-
ing Black Film (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993); Clyde R.
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