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Journal of Transatlantic Studies

, Volume 14, Issue 2, pp 164–175 | Cite as

‘Blind Tom’ abroad: race, disability, and transatlantic representations of Thomas Wiggins

  • Whitney Womack SmithEmail author
Article

Abstract

Congenitally blind with cognitive disabilities that led to his diagnosis as an ‘idiotic genius’, nineteenth-century African-American musical prodigy Thomas ‘Blind Tom’ Wiggins was nonetheless one of the most popular performers of his age. This article examines the ways that Wiggins’ identity was constructed and mediated through transatlantic eyes through his introduction to British readers by American writer Rebecca Harding Davis and the publicity materials created from his 1866–1867 European tour. This article expands the geographical focus of Blind Tom scholarship, considering him as a transatlantic phenomenon positioned between boundaries based on his race, citizenship, disability, and talent.

Keywords

Blind Tom race disability Rebecca Harding Davis freak shows 

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Notes

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Copyright information

© Board of Transatlantic Studies 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EnglishMiami University of OhioHamiltonUSA

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