New and Revised LCSH Headings for Minstrelsy Terms

In April 2022 the MLA-CMC Vocabularies Maintenance Task Group began initial discussion of LC subject headings related to minstrelsy. Minstrelsy is a form of entertainment originating in the 19th century that depicted caricatures of various racialized groups, but most predominantly African Americans. 

The Vocabularies Maintenance Task Group in 2022 consisted of Anne Adams (chair), with Jennifer Olson, Ann Churukian, Allison McClanahan, Tomoko Shibuya, and Clare Spitzer.  

In September 2022, after consultation with the African American SACO Funnel, the decision was made to remove references to African Americans from the terms Minstrelsy and Minstrel music in LCSH and create the narrower terms Blackface minstrel music and Blackface minstrel shows. The introduction of the narrower minstrelsy terms provides catalogers and users with more specific terms to identify and label derogatory works. Furthermore, similar “-face” terms used to depict caricatures of other racialized groups can be proposed to provide similar searching and indexing. 

Both LCSH and LCGFT terms were drafted by the VM task group with significant input from SACO Funnel Coordinator, Leo Martin. The SACO Funnel Coordinator sent an initial slate of 8 LCSH proposals and 2 LCCN proposals to SACO in February 2023: 

LCSH: 

    • African American wit and humor (revision) 
    • African American–Songs and music (revision) 
    • Blackface entertainers (new) 
    • Blackface minstrel shows (new) 
    • Blackface minstrel music (new) 
    • Minstrel music (revision) 
    • Minstrels (revision) 
    • Minstrel shows (revision) 

      LCCN: 

        • Blackface minstrel shows—PN1969.B43 (new) 
        • Blackface minstrel music—M1365.2 (new) 

          All but one term, “African Americans—Songs and music,” were approved on List 2304, with the note from the editorial board, “African Americans—Songs and music. The proposal added a contrasting scope note, which was not necessary. The proposal is not approved.” 

          The LCGFT proposals may be submitted at a later date.  

          The Vocabularies Subcommittee thanks and applauds the Vocabularies Maintenance Task Group and the SACO Funnel Coordinator for their diligent and thoughtful work in this area.