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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 ...