Jazz - Then and Now (Chapter 4, page 2 of 11)


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Chapter 4

Christy's Minstrels became the generally accepted name for all Negro Minstrels in Great Britain. Five volumes of the troupe's popular songs were published in Christy's Plantation Melodies. The New York State Supreme Court in 1857 acknowledged that Edwin P. Christy was the originator of Negro minstrelsy.

The economical crisis throughout Europe, on September 24, 1869---"Black Friday"---caused by speculation in U.S. railroad shares, had no impact on the growth and expansion of the minstrel shows. Minstrelsy even survived during and after the Civil War. However, with the outbreak of the Civil War, Christy, feared that his enterprise would be ruined. As a result, Christy committed suicide on May 21, 1862, at the age of 47, by jumping out of the window of his New York home.

Although Christy popularized the minstrel show in 1842, the American public first became aware of minstrelsy in 1828. At that time, minstrel entertainers George Dixon and Thomas "Daddy" Rice, gave their first blackface performance.

Rice called his popular song-and-dance act "Jim Crow." As his act grew in popularity, he adopted the name Jim Crow and was from then known and billed on the program with his new professional name, Daddy "Jim Crow" Rice.

The name "Jim Crow" came about when Rice was performing in a theatre with a summer road company in Louisville, Kentucky. At the back of the theatre was a stable owned by a man named Jim Crow. Crow had an elderly black man doing odd jobs around the stable. The man also groomed and fed the horses. As was the custom in those days, slaves took their owners' last names as their own. The elderly black man became known as Jim Crow.

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