Brian Roberts begins Blackface Nation with this truly winning admission: “This project started a long time ago, so long ago that many of the people I have to thank are retired. By retired, I mean dead.” Roberts throws 1999 into the mix as a key date in the book’s genesis. As a scholar who came of professional age in that decade I can attest to how well Blackface Nation evokes a period of remarkable ferment in the study of the knotty titular entertainment form. Others who were trained in the United States in that era will find plenty of reassuring signposts: oh, hey, Eric Lott and...

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