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Introduction: “Cruel Stack O'Lee”

Introduction: “Cruel Stack O'Lee”

Trickster Badness and the Fight against Subordination in African American Vernacular Culture

Chapter:
(p.1) Introduction: “Cruel Stack O'Lee”
Source:
Under a Bad Sign
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226550374.003.0001

This introductory chapter discusses the theme of this book, which is the black popular cultural producers' perpetuation of a criminal vision of themselves and their community. The book examines the history of African Americans' own controversial and seemingly counterproductive investment in criminal self-representations of black identity across popular American media and over the last century. It investigates how and why black popular cultural producers of music, fiction, film and television have consistently mobilized African American badman imagery against the grain in their attempt to meet, negotiate, and counter the problems of a society built on racialized hierarchies. The book traces the history of self-conscious black “minstrelsy” from the mythological badmen of African American folklore to the “gangsta” rappers of today.

Keywords:   criminal vision, African Americans, criminal self-representation, black identity, American media, mythological badmen, gangsta rappers, racialized hierarchies

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