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African Americans in Magic History

Pre-1860s

Prior to the end of the Civil War, there were two African American magicians that garnered fame on the stage in the United States. The first was Richard Potter, the free son of a British tax Collector named Charles Frankland and one of Frankland's slaves, a woman named Dinah. The second was an escaped slave named Henry Brown. Better known as “Box” Brown because he reached freedom by sealing himself in a packing crate and shipping himself North.
Richard Potter broadside from the collection of Robert A. Olson

Post 1865

The African American magician that seems to have been the first on the stage in the US after the war was Professor J.D. Kellies, known for not using apparatus during his performances. Newspaper accounts have records of his performances dating as far back as 1868.

1880s

The career of Black Carl, remembered as one of the finest magicians of his time, black or white, began his on stage career about 1883 as Boomski, the black assistant of Alexander Herrmann. Having most likely left Herrmann when he reached the age of 18, Carl, who real name was Edward Johnson went on to a long career, appearing mostly in minstrel shows and on black vaudeville circuits.

1890s

Once again an individual remembered as one of this countries greatest magicians began his on stage career as Alexander Herrmann's Boomski. Louis Moore would stay with Hermann until around 1894 when he would become Theosis, assistant to Edward Maro. After leaving Maro, Moore began his own career performing under the name Alonzo Moore. In his career, Moore would work in minstrel shows, black vaudeville, under canvas and even present his own two hour evening show.

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