Stephen Collins Foster Biography - online book

A Biography Of America's Folk-Song Composer By Harold Vincent Milligan

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as is known, probably the first negro character on the English stage was "Mungo," a character in Bickerstaff's comic opera, The Padlock, at Drury Lane Theatre in London, in 1768. An old program, dated 1788, records the performance in London of a "comic dance," entitled "An Ethiopian Festival." There are other recorded per­formances of a somewhat similar character, but Rice's success was so great and the vogue he established so enduring that the honor of being the founder of the amusement may be left with him.
"Jim Crow" remained a nightly attraction at the theatre until the end of the season, when it was trans­ferred to "Beale's Long Room," at the corner of Third and Market Streets. Another song and dance, "Clar de Kitchen," was added to it, soon followed by "Lucy Long," "Sich a Gittin' Upstairs," "Longtail Blue," and others, until a sizable repertoire had been built up.
Rice remained in Pittsburgh for two years, after which he took his negro entertainment to Philadelphia, Boston and New York, and later to England, where he enjoyed a vogue for a number of years. His idea was followed by others; for many years, however, the negro song and dance flourished, not on the theatrical stage, but in con­nection with travelling circuses and menageries. Be­tween acts the "extravaganzaist" would appear in cork and wool to sing "Coal Black Rose," "Jim Along, Joe," or "Sittin' on a Rail," and to share the laughter and applause with the clowns and monkeys. The first per­formers sang alone, with an accompaniment by the circus band, but couples soon appeared and provided their own accompaniments on the banjo and bones.
In 1827 George W. Dixon was singing "Coal Black Rose" in Albany. In 1829 he appeared at the Chatham Square Theatre in New York, singing this song and "Longtail Blue" and "Zip Coon" in character, with a banjo. In 1830 the New York "Mirror" said of Dixon: "In his imitations of African character he is far inferior

E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III