Stylin' by Shane White
African American Expressive Culture, from Its Beginnings to the Zoot Suit

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Synopsis

For over two centuries, in the North as well as the South, both within their own community and in the public arena, African Americans have presented their bodies in culturally distinctive ways. Shane White and Graham White consider the deeper significance of the ways in which African Americans have dressed, walked, danced, arranged their hair, and communicated in silent gestures. They ask what elaborate hair styles, bright colors, bandanas, long watch chains, and zoot suits, for example, have really meant, and discuss style itself as an expression of deep-seated cultural imperatives. Their wide-ranging exploration of black style from its African origins to the 1940s reveals a culture that differed from that of the dominant racial group in ways that were often subtle and elusive.

A wealth of black-and-white illustrations show the range of African American experience in America, emanating from all parts of the country, from cities and farms, from slave plantations, and Chicago beauty contests. White and White argue that the politics of black style is, in fact, the politics of metaphor, always ambiguous because it is always indirect. To tease out these ambiguities, they examine extensive sources, including advertisements for runaway slaves, interviews recorded with surviving ex-slaves in the 1930s, autobiographies, travelers' accounts, photographs, paintings, prints, newspapers, and images drawn from popular culture, such as the stereotypes of Jim Crow and Zip Coon.

 

About Shane White

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Shane White is Professor of History at the University of Sydney. White is Honary Research Associate in the Dept. of History, University of Sydney.
 
Published March 1, 1998 by Cornell University Press. 304 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Political & Social Sciences, Arts & Photography, Health, Fitness & Dieting. Non-fiction

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Focusing on such variegated indicators of black style as dress, hair, body language, and dance, the authors reveal an evolving semiotics of black self-creation that has been designed from its very outset to impose a degree of individuality on the numbing uniformity bred of slavery, poverty, Jim C...

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During Reconstruction, in contrast, former slaves paraded through white sections of town to signal communal pride in Emancipation or, later, put on their finery and promenaded in the Saturday-night ""Stroll."" By the time the book reaches 1940s zoot-suiters, its claims for the vital role played b...

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