Arts and Entertainment

Performing Arts

How were slaves involved in entertainment during colonial America?

Talented slaves were among the earliest black entertainers in colonial and antebellum America. On plantations throughout the South slave performers—using clappers, jawbones, and blacksmith rasps—danced, sang, and told jokes for the entertainment of their fellow slaves as well as their masters, who often showcased their talents at local gatherings. Some masters hired out talented slaves to perform in traveling troupes.

Two famous blackface performers of their day were Billy Van (left) and George Washington Dixon (right).


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