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The Showman and the Slave: Race, Death, and Memory in Barnum's America

by Reiss, Benjamin
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Retail Price: $29.95
Issue: Fall 2002
ISBN: 0674006364

The fractured story of Joice Heth's life and travels with P. T. Barnum are used to plot the rising tensions in Antebellum America. The claim that Heth was an elderly enslaved, one hundred and sixty-one year old former nurse to George Washington set the stage for Barnum's sideshow success. Her act and her death, in a time of transition in definitions of racial identity, lead to a public fascination and an early example of a media circus in America. Benjamin Reiss tells us the story of Joice Heth and in his conclusion provides theories to address the identity of the woman before the show.

review of The Showman and the Slave: Race, Death, and Memory in Barnum's America, by Reiss, Benjamin, Civil War Book Review, (Fall 2002).