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Article

William Lichtenwanger

minstrel performer and composer, was born in Flushing, Long Island, New York, the son of Allen M. Bland, an incipient lawyer, and Lidia Ann Cromwell of Brandywine, Delaware, of an emancipated family. Bland's father, whose family had been free for several generations, attended law school at Howard University in Washington, D.C., and in 1867 became the first black to be appointed an examiner in the U.S. Patent Office.

James Bland entered Howard University as a prelaw student in 1870 at the urging of his father but the subject and the life associated with it did not appeal to him Instead he was attracted to the minstrel show that was approaching its peak during the 1870s He played the guitar danced the steps sang the minstrel songs and most important composed songs for the shows A free black man who attended college for two years Bland had to learn ...

Article

Jan Michael Hanvik

The vivid and diverse dances of the Caribbean are both influential and popular in the Americas, Europe, and Africa. Caribbean countries and island territories sustaining strong, viable dance in the twentieth century include Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Martinique, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Trinidad, the Bahamas, and Jamaica, as well as the coastal regions of such Caribbeanrim nations as Colombia, Venezuela, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, and the United States.

The study of dance in the region is inseparable from the issue of migration European colonizers entered the Caribbean at the end of the fifteenth century at that time Native American peoples had lived on the islands and along the coasts for thousands of years After missionizing colonizing and losing most of them to overwork and epidemics African slaves were forcibly transported to the Caribbean by European slave traders until the nineteenth century Slaves escaping island conditions immigrated to the coastal mainland ...

Article

Dance  

Robert H. Gudmestad and Kathleen Thompson

[This entry contains two subentries dealing with dance from the early eighteenth century through the end of the nineteenth century The first article discusses the transmission of African dance traditions to North America by slaves and the new expressions that arose while the second article discusses the movement of ...

Article

Haiti  

Henry Frank

In the West Indies, the Republic of Haiti occupies the western third of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, which was discovered by the 1492 expedition of Christopher Columbus. The Dominican Republic occupies the eastern side, and both were originally part of the Spanish colonial empire of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, when sugar plantations were established and slaves transported from Africa as laborers. France took the island from Spain in 1697, transporting additional slaves from Africa to work the sugar and coffee plantations. In the 1780s rebellions and an ensuing class war among blacks, mulattos, and Haitians resulted in invasions by French and British troops. In 1801, the former slave Toussaint L'Ouvature conquered the entire island and abolished slavery; Haiti became the second independent nation in the Americas in 1804 (after the United States). Ruled by self-styled presidents and emperors until 1859 it lost eastern ...

Article

Adele N. Nichols

singer, dancer, ventriloquist, and junk merchant, was born in Greenwich Village, New York, on the eve of the Civil War. To date, questions remain about Harmon's real name, parents, siblings, if any, and childhood. In addition, there appears to be no documentation about his years as a performer. The available information indicates that he worked in show business as a singer, dancer, and ventriloquist. Essentially, he was a well-rounded entertainer who had many talents and a knack for the stage. Harmon was married and had two children; however, the names of his wife and children are not readily available. When Harmon was around 38 and 39, his wife and children died from influenza in 1898–1899, during the Spanish American War. Harmon then moved to Harlem and lived in a two-room apartment.

Around 1910 Harmon having left the stage began a new career with a small cart and a ...

Article

David Bradford

show business entrepreneur, minstrel company owner and manager, interlocutor, singer, and comedian, claimed to have been born a slave in Baltimore, Maryland. Nothing is known of his parents.

The minstrel show was, by some measures, the most popular form of public entertainment during the mid-nineteenth century. For African Americans pursuing careers in show business, there were few alternatives to blackface minstrelsy, leading to the perplexing situation of black performers perpetuating white caricatures of blacks. Some African Americans were disdainful of minstrel shows in general and especially those staged by performers of their own race (since they gave “aid and comfort to the enemy,” according to James Monroe Trotter a chronicler of black musical achievement in the 1870s Nevertheless the best black minstrel companies were enormously popular with black as well as white audiences After attending a performance of the Georgia Minstrels even the erudite ...

Article

Jamaica  

Rex Nettleford

A West Indies island republic of some 3 million people lying south of Cuba and west of Haiti in the Caribbean Sea, Jamaica has a traditional economy based on sugar plantations and mining. Sighted by the 1494 expedition of Christopher Columbus, it was settled by the Spanish in 1509. The Arawak people, who had lived there for thousands of years, fought the Spanish, fled, and died in great numbers from epidemics. Britain captured the island in 1655, and it became a part of the British Empire in 1670. In the 1700s, slaves from Africa were transported as laborers. After Jamaica's 1838 abolition of slavery, the sugar market declined, leading to economic harship, civil unrest, and British government suppression of local autonomy. Rebellions by Jamaican blacks then occurred periodically because of their poverty and Britain's racial policies. In 1944 the vote was granted to all adults ...

Article

Graeme Boone and James Sellman

The roots of the jook joint—a distinctly African American place for music, dancing, and socializing—reach back well before the Civil War (1861–1865) to the era of slavery. For slaves, free time and free space were transitory, rare, and surrounded in secrecy. In his autobiography, Tom Fletcher, an entertainer born in the late nineteenth century, recalled stories of such gatherings that he had heard when he was a boy: “[T]he slaves couldn't just come right out and say they were going to have a party or even a religious gathering. … [They] would use some kind of a signal … and one of the main code songs was the spiritual ‘Steal Away’. … The steal away gatherings sometimes were religious services. … Other times they were … good time parties.”

In such an environment to steal away and dance make music or pray together meant more than ...

Article

Kevin Byrne

minstrel entertainer, was born in New Orleans and at an early age moved with his family to New York City. Scant biographical information exists regarding his upbringing before theatrical manager Charles Hicks discovered him in a small Bowery music hall and placed him in his minstrel show, but it has been suggested that he had little formal education and even into his adult life had to be taught the comedic songs and routines for which he became internationally renowned.

Kersands began his career in minstrelsy as a performer in Hicks's Georgia Minstrels in 1870 or 1871 At the time the popularity of minstrelsy was unrivaled in the United States and Hicks s organization is notable for being one of the first African American minstrel companies to achieve national fame This troupe adopted the standard tripartite format of the minstrel show as established by white performers in the 1840s ...

Article

Constance Valis Hill

dancer, also known as “Master Juba,” is believed to have been born a freeman, although neither his place of birth nor the names of his parents are known. He grew up in lower Manhattan in New York City, where he learned to dance from “Uncle” Jim Lowe, an African American jig-and-reel dancer of exceptional skill.

By the age of fifteen, Lane was performing in notorious “dance houses” and dance establishments in the Five Points district of lower Manhattan. Located at the intersection of Cross, Anthony, Little Water, Orange, and Mulberry streets, its thoroughfare was lined with brothels and saloons occupied largely by free blacks and indigent Irish immigrants. Lane lived and worked in the Five Points district in the early 1840s. In such surroundings, the blending of African American vernacular dance with the Irish jig was inevitable. Marshall Stearns in Jazz Dance (1968 confirms ...

Article

Eric Gardner

also known as “Millie-Christine,” entertainers, were conjoined twins born to an enslaved couple named Jacob and Monemia, who were owned by Jabez McKay, a Columbus County, North Carolina, blacksmith. The twins quickly became a local sensation in the wake of the success of the original “Siamese Twins,” Chang and Eng Bunker (conjoined twins made famous by showman and entrepreneur P. T. Barnum) and the growth of the national circus movement. Before the McKoy twins were a year old, McKay and his partner John C. Pervis arranged for them to be exhibited throughout the area; soon after, their career was taken over by a manager named Brower, and they were sold to North Carolina businessman Joseph Pearson Smith. By this point, though, Brower, who was in possession of the young girls, had been swindled and the girls were stolen away to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where, in 1854 ...