The final act of the West Chicago minstrel show | Bleader

Thursday, December 19, 2013

The final act of the West Chicago minstrel show

Posted By on 12.19.13 at 01:20 PM

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Cover of the playbill of the 1930 West Chicago Charity Minstrel Show.
  • West Chicago History Museum
  • Cover of the playbill of the 1930 West Chicago Charity Minstrel Show.
J. Thomas Pallas's conceptual art project, "Documents of Minstrelsy, Past and Present," has been removed from the West Chicago City Museum, where it was part of an exhibit called "Where History and Progress Meet," the Tribune reports.

Pallas's art project took the form of a press release for a charity minstrel show at West Chicago High School that was purportedly an exact revival of a show performed by the high school glee club back in 1930. But there was no minstrel show. (There was no high school minstrel show in 1930, either; Pallas had misread the original playbill, which clearly stated that the performance was produced by the "C & NW RY Glee Club," the Chicago and North West Railway Glee Club.) It was instead an attempt to start a conversation about racism and racial stereotypes. I talked to Pallas last week about his reasons for starting the project, but this was before the museum pulled his work.

"His action to send out the press releases was done without city authorization and without city knowledge," John Said, the city's director of community development, told the Tribune. "As soon as this matter came to light, I directed that it be removed immediately. We are taking steps to ensure that, in the future, we have procedures to assure this does not occur again. We are formulating those right now."

Pallas has not returned calls from either the museum or the Tribune.

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