The ‘Other’ Chautauqua: Examining Race in American Performance
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The Chautauqua movement in American history was one of informal education, entertainment, and cultural awakening that the United States had not yet experienced on a national scale. From permanent sites, known as independents, to the traveling brown tents known as the circuits, Chautauqua was a public platform for showcasing artistic expression and experience of the country’s diverse, ethnic communities, including those of African American, Asian American, and Native American lineage. This national cultural phenomenon, garnering labels of spectacle and grandeur, appeared during a pivotal moment in our nation’s narrative, as the inclusion of these ethnic performers and groups within Chautauqua programming challenged firmly held beliefs regarding race and culture that operated within the political landscape of emancipation, exclusionary legislation, cultural appropriation, and the immigration and migratory patterns of the Western frontier.