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Chapter 5 examines the development of the blackface character, from the court minstrel shows to street performances to print magazines. While entertainment had served as a lifeline for some freed Africans in Iran in the early twentieth century, non-Black Iranian actors in blackface, now called siyah or “the Black,” replaced them in the troupes. The canonization of these minstrel shows as a type of folk theater required their sanitization, and while the framework of the plays replicated all existing references to the enslavement of the siyah, alternate rationales emerged to distance the theatrical genre from its tainted past. As minstrel plays grew more popular, the inclusion of a blackface caricature would catapult satirical magazines to heightened popularity during the 1960s and onward. This chapter charts the canonization of blackface caricatures in public spaces and how it came to displace the presence of Black Iranians.

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