Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

John Kneebone


This thesis examines the life and musical career of James "Polk" Miller of Richmond Virginia, a Confederate veteran, and successful pharmacist. Miller claimed to offer the only authentic version of antebellum slave music, and was renowned as a convincing "negro delineator." In his focus on race, performance, and authenticity, Miller straddled a number of cultural currents linking him to his nineteenth century predecessors as well as the cultural milieu of the twentieth century. About the turn of the century, he added a black quartet to his act in order to more fully capture his conception of the "authentic" slave music of his youth, a decision that ultimately led to his failure as a stage performer. Audiences' receptions of Miller's quartet illuminate the dynamic way in which performance and race intersected in the early twentieth century.


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Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

December 2010

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