Journal of American Studies (1997), 31:407-438. Cambridge University Press.
Copyright © 1997 Cambridge University Press

"An Octoroon in the Kindling": American Vernacular & Blackface Minstrelsy in 1930s Hollywood

a1Media Arts Faculty, Southampton Institute, East Park Terrace, Southampton, SO14 0YN, England


For close on to a hundred years discourses on national identity, European ethnic assimilation and the problem of class division within the Republic had been principally addressed in the popular arts through the agency of the black mask. During the 1930s, blackface in American films shifted from the idea implied in the racial slur, "nigger in the woodpile," to the rather less visible, but no less derogatory, "octoroon in the kindling," a phrase used in Her Man (Pathé, Tay Garnett, 1930) to suggest something is amiss, but which is used here to suggest the cultural miscegenation that informs much of the material discussed in this article.

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