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"Jim Crow" The Character
The origin of the minstrel character, Jim Crow, has been placed in Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and Louisville, Kentucky. The Kentucky version suggests that in 1830, Thomas D. Rice, a white man who was a blackface performer, was in Louisville acting and working as a stagehand doing carpentry and lamp lighting. A livery stable owned by a man named Crowe was located near the City Theatre where Rice performed; Crowe owned a slave named Jim Crowe who sang and danced while he worked at the stable. Rice studied Crowe's movements, his song, and his clothes, all of which were incorporated into Rice's stage performance of Jim Crow in Pittsburgh. Rice's performance was originally meant to be a brief diversion between acts; instead it was an instant hit with white audiences in the United States and England. "Jim Crow" became a permanent term in the English vocabulary and would have multiple applications. A Jim Crow song was published in 1830 by William C. Peters. Jim Crow acts and songs were the rave, and Rice was dubbed "Daddy Rice," "Father of American Minstrels," and "Mr. T. D. Rice of Kentucky." Thomas Rice was actually from New York but had spent a brief time in Kentucky at the beginning of his stage career. For more about the character Jim Crow, see the entry by J. D. Julian in The Encyclopedia of Louisville, ed. by J. E. Kleber; and Men in Blackface, by S. Stark. For more about Thomas D. Rice, see M. N. Ramshaw, "Jump Jim Crow! A Biographical Sketch of Thomas D. Rice," Theatre Annual, vol. 17 (1960).
See image of Jim Crow character at the KET [Kentucky Educational Television] website.
Subjects: Actors, Actresses, Jim Crow, Carpenters
Geographic Region: Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky