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Pearlie Peters

(birth and death dates unknown), an African root magician who was influential in the pivotal fight between Frederick Douglass and Edward Covey and was a coconspirator with Douglass and other slaves in a subsequent plan to escape slavery. Sandy Jenkins was a slave whose spiritual beliefs were deeply rooted in African folk magic and its power as a weapon of resistance to the brutality and inhumanity of slavery. Jenkins also participated with several other slaves in an 1836 escape plan devised by Douglass. Regarding both folk magic and the planned escape, Douglass demonstrated skepticism with regard to Sandy Jenkins's legitimacy. Although married to a free woman who had a cabin on Pot Pie Neck, which was south of the Covey farm where Douglass was hired out for a year by Thomas Auld, Jenkins himself was a slave. He was owned by William Groome of Easton Maryland who had ...

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Charlie T. Tomlinson

ventriloquist and magician, was born in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, the son of Dinah Swain (often called Black Dinah), a slave. Potter's mother was kidnapped by Dutch slave traders during her childhood, sold at an auction, and taken to Boston as a slave by Sir Charles Henry Frankland, a tax collector for the Port of Boston. She had five children while serving in Frankland's household. The identity of Potter's biological father remains a mystery. According to speculation, Potter's father was Frankland. Early church records indicate that Potter's father was a white man by the name of George Simpson. The origin of Potter's name is another mystery.

Potter spent his early years on the Frankland estate in Hopkinton, Massachusetts. At the age of ten, in 1793 he took work on a ship as a cabin boy His travels took him to England where he came across a Scottish ...

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John Patrick Deveney

visionary, spiritualist, Rosicrucian, sex magician, reformer, teacher, and novelist, was born to Flora Clark, a single mother, and grew up in the notorious Five Points section of New York City. His mother, he later claimed, was a descendent of the queen of Madagascar, and his father a scion of the Randolph family of Virginia, signers of the Declaration of Independence and descendants of Pocahontas, but the truth was probably more prosaic. His father was either William Randon or William B. Randolph, neither scions of the Randolphs nor married to his mother. When circumstances demanded it and when it suited his purposes, Randolph denied that “a drop of continental African, or pure negro blood” ran in his veins—“not that it were a disgrace,” he added (Randolph, Curious Life 4 18 At the same time however when he was what he called ...

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magician, ventriloquist, and entrepreneur, was born in Amherst, Virginia, one of eight children of Peticus Rucker, a farm laborer, and Louise A. Rucker, a cook. In his teens Rucker worked as a cook and then as a contractor building houses. When Harry Kellar (“Kellar the Great”), one of the foremost magicians of his time, came through the area on tour, Rucker performed some handyman tasks for him and became his assistant.

Rucker studied stage magic under Kellar and eventually began performing on his own, taking the stage name “Black Herman.” This pseudonym linked him with earlier black magicians, such as Prince Herman, a traveling medicine show magician, whom Rucker also claimed as a mentor, and James A. Willis and Alonzo Moore whose stage names included Herman in some combination or else billed themselves as the black Hermann or the black Herman implying that ...