Arts and Entertainment

Black Dance

How was black dance used on the slave plantation?

Dance forms and characteristics have been influenced greatly by West African dance traditions. Not only were dance, music, and song entrenched in African societies, but they were used in religious ceremonies and rites. From its beginning in Africa, dance helped to shape the black community by providing a way for slaves to entertain themselves as well as their masters. Slaves performed social as well as religious dance forms, yet sometimes whites considered slave religious dances as social dances. The shout, or ring shout, came to slaves from their African background. Slaves developed a number of social dances and used them for recreation, during special days, or to entertain their white masters. The Cakewalk, the Charleston, the Black Bottom, and the Itch are examples of their creations. White minstrels in blackface used many of the slave dances in their own shows. “Master Juba,” performed by William Henry Lane, entertained audiences as a black minstrel dancer. The legendary black dancer, who did not work in blackface, toured in 1845. Later he and three white showmen toured together as the Ethiopian Minstrels.


This is a web preview of the "The Handy African American History Answer Book" app. Many features only work on your mobile device. If you like what you see, we hope you will consider buying. Get the App