circus & vaudeville

I became interested in circus and vaudeville history first while researching the history of “Pitch a Boogie Woogie,” which led me to meeting Mattie Sloan in Laurinburg and, ultimately, to my ongoing project of piecing together a narrative of Mose McQuitty’s life on the road as a traveling musician from 1896-1937.  It became apparent early in this process that African-American performers and managers were not often included in standard histories of circuses and vaudeville, that they had, in fact, little in common with what was essentially white circus history and white vaudeville history.

I’ve been a member of the Circus Historical Society for over 20 years. It’s a terrific organization, filled with interesting and eccentric people, many of whom have worked in circuses. Al Stencell was the first of these I met, years ago, when he came to Greenville to try to track down a Tarboro woman who had traveled with him on shows. 

This chronology of African-American band leaders is an on-going project, and I welcome input: alex@rafountain.com

Award
2016 Stuart Thayer Prize, for “Mose McQuitty’s Band and Minstrel Days, 1899-1937” (published in Bandwagon), presented by the Circus Historical Society for Most Outstanding Contribution to Circus History for the year.

Article
“Mose McQuitty’s Band and Minstrel Days, 1899-1937.” Bandwagon: The Journal of the Circus Historical Society 60.3 (2016): 6-47.

“Noon Parade and Midnight Ramble: Traveling Tent Shows in North Carolina, 1900-50.” Good Country People I.1 (Spring 1995): 61-90.

“Classic Blues under Gigantic Tents.” Living Blues 24.3 (June 1993) 46-49.

“The African-American Traveling Minstrel Show” Living Blues 24.2 (April 1993) 36-41.

“Micheaux, Vaudeville, and Black Cast Film.” Black Film Review 7.4: 6-9, 36.

“Mose McQuitty’s Unknown Career: A Personal History of Black Music in America.” Black Music Research Bulletin. 11.2 (Fall 1989): 1-5.

Scholarly papers & presentations
“Rusco & Hockwald’s Georgia Minstrels of 1926,” Nevada Historical Society, Reno, NV. 7 January 2009.

“Behind the Masks: Early African-American Vaudeville,” Mississippi Humanities Commission, Port Gibson, MS; July 3, 2006.

“Understanding Vaudeville: Early Black Entertainers, Their Roots, and Their Influences on American Entertainment.” NEH Summer Institute “Behind the Veil: African American Life in the Jim Crow South.” Center for Documentary Studies, Duke U, Durham, NC: 17 July 1991.

“Beyond TOBY Time and Shuffle Along: Where the other Black Entertainers Were.” Popular Culture Assn. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: 9 March 1990.

“Early North Carolina Film Documents: Restoration and Preservation.” Popular and American Culture in the South. Knoxville, TN: 9 Oct.ober 1988

“Silas Green from New Orleans: Last of the Great Traveling Minstrel Shows.” Popular Culture Association. New Orleans, LA: 24 March 1988.

“‘Pitch a Boogie Woogie’: Text and Re-Text.” Florida State Film and Video Conference. Tallahassee, FL: 30 January 1988.

“Traveling Man: 40 Years on the Road with Mose McQuitty.” Popular Culture Association. Montreal, Canada: 28 March 1987.