Who was Jim Crow?

From the 1880s into the 1960s, a majority of American states enforced segregation through “Jim Crow” laws. But did you know there was a real-life Jim Crow from which the laws were named after?

Q: Who was Jim Crow?

The minstrel show is one of the first indigenous forms of American entertainment. One of the earliest and most successful of the minstrel performers was Thomas Dartmouth “Daddy” Rice.

Rice, a white actor, was inspired by an elderly Negro in Louisville, Kentucky crooning and dancing to a song that ended with the same chorus:

“Weel about and turn about and do jis so, Eb’ry time I weel about I jump Jim Crow.”

Rice’s imitation of the Negro’s song and dance routine was an astounding success that took him from Louisville to Cincinnati to Pittsburgh to Philadelphia and finally to New York City in 1832. He then performed to acclaim in London and Dublin, where the Irish in particular appreciated his blackface song-and-dance routine of “Jim Crow.”


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