Murray, Joshua Michael
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This thesis analyzes seven of Hughes’s poems that utilize the Pierrot character from the commedia dell’arte tradition as a way of combating the damage caused by American blackface minstrelsy. Hughes uses the white mask of Pierrot to reverse the color binary of a white minstrel wearing blackface. Over the course of the seven poems, the Black Pierrot deviates from the conventional Pierrot’s passive depictions and creates a new identity for himself. This progression provides a metaphor for African Americans as they, too, strive to distance themselves from the stereotypes of minstrelsy. It also solidifies Hughes’s identity as a writer across genres.