From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Brooks, Melody J.

(born: January 19, 1956  -  died: July 4, 2023) 

Little has been written about African American women ventriloquists, and there has been nothing written about those in or from Kentucky. In minstrel shows, it was not unusual to find a woman playing the role of a puppet for a male ventriloquist. Richard Potter (1783-1835) is often considered the first (or one of the first) African American male ventriloquists, as is John Walcott Cooper (1873-1966), who is also recognized as the first to become famous.

Melody Brooks was a modern day ventriloquist who lived in Lexington, KY. Born in Berea, KY, she was the daughter of Audrey and Curtis Brooks. The family moved to Lexington, where Melody graduated from Bryan Station High School.

A self-taught ventriloquist, Melody Brooks had been performing since the age of 12 and continued to perform at nursing homes, schools, hospitals, showers, parties, and other special events. She once performed on the television show, Good Morning America. Brooks was also a singer and artist (producing drawings, paintings, charcoals, pencils, and mixed media).

Melody J. Brooks Clark died July 4, 2023. 

See Sandor, Julia. "Lexington family shares legacy of notable African American ventriloquist," WKYT, 07/09/2023, online.

For more about African American ventriloquists, see Ethnic Ventriloquism: literary minstrelsy in Nineteenth-Century American literatureby M. Banerjee; and the John W. Cooper Collection (archival) at the New York Public Library. See also the Vent Haven Museum website. The museum is located in Ft. Mitchell, KY, the only museum dedicated to ventriloquism.

Kentucky County & Region

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Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Berea, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Lexington, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Fort Mitchell, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Item Relations

Cited in this Entry

NKAA Source: Ethnic ventriloquism : literary minstrelsy in nineteenth-century American literature
NKAA Source: John Walcott Cooper collection (archival)

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Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Brooks, Melody J.,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed June 21, 2024, https://nkaa.uky.edu/nkaa/index.php/items/show/1741.

Last modified: 2023-07-10 13:42:20