Conjure Times: Black Magicians in America

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9780802787620: Conjure Times: Black Magicians in America

Probes historical documents and uncovers a unique aspect of the African-American cultural experience where, because of slavery and racial discrimination, few magicians of color became famous even though they achieved great skill and a flare for entertaining audiences.

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From School Library Journal:

Gr 6-8-A lively, interesting, carefully researched look at a unique aspect of African-American history and culture that introduces the lives of black magicians, beginning with Richard Potter, "America's First Negro Magician," son of a plantation owner and a slave. Using black-and-white reproductions of playbills, advertisements, woodcuts, and period photographs, the history of the minstrel show and vaudeville is discussed as part of the development of theatrical magic shows. Slavery, racial discrimination, and segregation are discussed as part of the social history surrounding the lives of the performers profiled. The authors note that personal information on many performers was difficult to find, and the gaps help readers understand how much African-American history has been lost. Descriptions of popular trademark tricks are highlighted in boxes in each chapter. Budding magicians will find this book appealing, and it will be a great addition to African-American history collections.

Jennifer Ralston, Harford County Public Library, Belcamp, MD

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist:

Gr. 6-12. The evolution of theatrical magic owes much to African American performers, beginning with Richard Potter, the earliest known American-born magician and the son of a plantation owner and his household slave. As the authors explain, information about Potter and many of the other black magicians was difficult to come by; records and personal stories had to be culled from entertainment fliers and other obscure sources, leaving gaps in the accounts. But instead of being distracting, the occasional gaps give readers a sense of how much of the history has been lost, and how fortunate we are to have this as a resource. Each chapter highlights either a specific magician or performers who made their names in a specific kind of entertainment--the minstrel show, vaudeville, etc. Woodcuts, photographs, and posters add background and context, and descriptions of trademark tricks never give away how the magic is done. Roger Leslie
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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