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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Magicians of old » » In Honor of Black History Month... (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

Skip Way
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...let's not forget the first native born American magician, Richard Potter, 1783-1835, born in Boston to a British tax collector and an African indentured servant. This free African-American was a very popular entertainer who toured the new American nation for decades, including the slave-holding South, performing magic, juggling, hypnotism and ventriloquism before retiring as a wealthy man in New Hampshire.

Potter’s prestidigitation with eggs, money, and cards was considered of scientific interest, and he often performed at the Columbia Museum in Boston. He could throw knives and touch a hot iron to his tongue, walk on flames, and dance on eggs without breaking them.

One of Potter's three children with wife Sally followed in his footsteps as an entertainer of note. The town he lived in is now called Potter Place and his grave is an historic landmark.

Potter's story intrigued Harry Houdini, who included Potter in his popular magazine of magic. One source states that Richard Potter's life also inspired Grace Metalious's character Samuel Peyton in the novel Peyton Place.
How you leave others feeling after an Experience with you becomes your Trademark.

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Spellbinder
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Richard Potter was not the first native born American magician, but the first native born American of African ancestry magician.

There were many other Native Americans practicing magic as shamans long before the arrival of Europeans and Africans in America. We may not remember their names because they had no written history, but their rich oral history tells us of the magic they performed that was handed down through countless generations from shaman to shaman. Their performances were interwoven with storytelling, light and shadows from the campfire, masks and costumes that were as magical to their audiences as anything modern magicians perform on the stage. Unfortunately, most of our public schools and public libraries do not recognize Native American Heritage Month (November) to encourage study and research into these things. http://nativeamericanheritagemonth.gov/
Professor Spellbinder

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Skip Way
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Shamans and medicine men were neither theatrical magicians nor itinerant entertainers; they were highly respected and skilled tribal holy men. Their magic was not perceived as illusion for entertainment sake, but "powers" and rituals gifted by their deities. They were the doctors, priests and historians of their tribes. Totally different genre, wouldn't you say?

Add to that the fact that while the Shamans were certainly native to the North American continent, they were not considered citizens, by birth or otherwise, of the newly incorporated United States.

Totally different issues on both counts.

But, if one wishes to pick nits then - according to colonial historical documents, Richard Potter was the first native-born American citizen magician with any claim to national fame. Better?
How you leave others feeling after an Experience with you becomes your Trademark.

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Spellbinder
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Quote:
On 2011-02-03 14:36, Skip Way wrote:
Shamans and medicine men were neither theatrical magicians nor itinerant entertainers; they were highly respected and skilled tribal holy men. Their magic was not perceived as illusion for entertainment sake, but "powers" and rituals gifted by their deities. They were the doctors, priests and historians of their tribes. Totally different genre, wouldn't you say?


Still picking nits, I wouldn't say it's a totally different genre, not with Ana Eva Fay, the spiritualist and medium, accepted as a magician by none other than Harry Blackstone, Senior, and accepted by The Magic Circle of England as an Honorary Lady Associate, since women at that time were not eligible to be a members.

How do you categorize John Edward? Or Peter Popoff? Their "magic" is not perceived as illusion for entertainment sake, but "powers" gifted by who knows what?

So I contend that the nightly gatherings around the campfire to hear a story, or to watch a sick person "healed", or to see the ghosts of the ancestors in the smoke... were also entertainments and in the audience were both believers and non-believers as there are in every audience you have ever encountered. They even had hecklers. And they got paid.
Professor Spellbinder

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mindguru
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A very interesting thread.
mtpascoe
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This thread is supposed to honor the unsung hero, the black magician. Yeah, I know, the Native American magician is unsung too. I think another thread about them would be fun for us that are not familiar with that part of history. But for now, let’s stick to the subject.

Speaking of which, I was thrilled last year when I walked into the local library hear and accidently ran into a book on about the history of the African-American magician called Conjure Times: Black Magicians in America. It was in the children section and I would never have found it if I didn’t wander there. After I was done reading it and checked it back in, I was pleased to find out later on that it was moved where it should be and that was in the regular magic section.
Spellbinder
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OK. Just making a point, anyway.

Here's some interesting links on the subject at hand:(you may have to cut and paste to follow them)

http://www.wednesdayjournalonline.com/ma......2813.709

The book mentioned in the article is available from Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Magical-heroes-leg......006QG9OE

The book Conjure Times is also available from Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001QCX......=typ01#_


I hope that soothes some ruffled feathers.
Professor Spellbinder

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Skip Way
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No ruffled feathers. I simply disagree with your attempt to place native American medicine men on the same platform as itinerant stage magicians. It's like comparing David Copperfield to the Pope; David Blaine to Mother Teresa. I simply feel that the comparison disrespects the Native American holy men and downplays their tribal role.

Either way, it isn't worth fretting over. We simply share different views of their relevance.
How you leave others feeling after an Experience with you becomes your Trademark.

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Spellbinder
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I'm shocked that you think the Pope performs illusions and that Mother Theresa did street magic. We should steer this topic back to discussing people like Henry "Box" Brown, William Carl, Black Herman, Fetaque Sanders, Everette (Earl) Johnson, Harold Johnson, Brian Johnson, Goldfinger and Dove, Chris Capehart, Phil Jennings, Dynamike, Kenrick "Ice" McDonald, Mr. Magic and Deva, Walter King Jr., Hiawatha, Puck, Eric Jones, Frederick Goode and Alquadir Marsh (the list goes on and on if we include the magicians currently making history).

If we're not limited to just African AMERICAN magicians, we should include Marcel Pretorius of South Africa. Sorry I don't know more black African black magicians but in Africa a magician can still get burned at the stake for being a witch.

There's also the British born Michael Vincent. Do any countries of the world celebrate anything like the USA's Black History Month?
Professor Spellbinder

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joe yang
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Got to put in a plug for an old friend, Earl "Bosco" Johnson, amazing skill with cigarettes!
aka Mike Booth
Spellbinder
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"Bosco?" I think you mean "Presto." You'll find him in my list, but always good for a second mention.
Professor Spellbinder

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mtpascoe
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Let's not forget the man that just passed away last year, Frank Brents. He led the way for black magicians on TV like my pal Jack Vaughn aka Goldfinger.
duanebarry
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Here's a wonderful performance by Earl "Presto" Johnson.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CIgZs21yB......embedded

The video quality is poor, but the performance is golden.
Pete Biro
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I cannot believe no one has mentioned one of the best... one of my early mentors... a great creative mind... and a terrific performer...EMILE CLIFTON.

The Clifton Ring Move and his McD's aces... "STARTLED" are classics. You can read all about him in the book I wrote, "The Magic of Emile Clifton." from http://www.stevensmagic.com

He also was a Distinguished Flying Cross and Purple Heart winner in WWII as a member of the Tuskeegee Airmen.
STAY TOONED... @ www.pete-biro.com
houdinisghost
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"Any person, of the white race, over 21, with a sincere interest in magic is invited to join the Society of American Magicians."
And that's the way it was. That's how it was when three Jewish-American doctors founded the S.A.M.
That's how it was when Houdini was president of the S.A.M. (1917-1926).
That's how it still was when African-American George White broke the wand over Howard Thurston's coffin in the S.A.M. ceremony.
In 1925, the I.B.M. was formed. It was open to all.
Well, yeah, but, anyone could be blackballed from membership. In Jim Crow towns, of course the Rings were Jim Crow.
Emile Clifton, the war hero, joined the I.B.M. Prepaid for the annual convention and the convention hotel--and was thrown out bodily by a bunch of cracker hotel security men because it was a Jim Crow hotel.
All weren't welcome.
Cliff would never join another magic club. Not even the Castle. I told him there was no racism inside the Castle. People really had to check their racism at the door.
One night back in the eighties, I was talking with Milt Larsen at the Variety Arts Club's fourth floor bar. Two couples passed us and Milt said goodnight to them, then, he turned back to me and said sotto voice, "Those are friends of mine, but, they're Pasadena snobs and they're leaving because we have black people here." And indeed we did. In addition to ordinary folk of all races, at that club, I was able to meet and chat with the Nicholas Brothers, John W. Bubbles, Matthew "Stymie" Beard, Zola Taylor of the Platters, and I would mention Goldfinger and Dove, except that we'd been friends for years at the Castle. Milt used the old hoofer Gene Bell on every show he ever conceivably could.
At the Castle, the Mayfair Music Hall, and the S.P.V.A., people had to leave their racism on the sidewalk outside.
Now that most of the bad old days are behind us, we are going to be privileged to see magicians of all races. Everywhere.
I do want to mention that John Mulholland wrote about an Ojibwa ceremony in which the shaman is tied up to the point of helplessness, but, he is able to produce phenomena such as causing the tent he's in to quiver and shake.
That sounds like show business to me.
Pete Biro
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Thanks for posting the above. You mentioned a few I didn't know about.

One time Clifton came up to me and said, "I'm making progress. Some guy called me a S.O.B. and not an N-word."
STAY TOONED... @ www.pete-biro.com
Bill Palmer
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Herman Yerger, the founder of the Texas Association of Magicians, was a black man. He told people that he was from India, because of the Jim Crow laws. I knew Herman. To supplement his income, he also had a small store where he sold various and sundry potions, etc., and he did readings. His approach to readings was very gentle. He was not a charlatan. Instead, he was somewhat like an advisor to his neighbors. A friend of mine, who knew Herman better than I did, overheard one of his readings. Basically, he reminded his client to take her blood pressure medicine and to watch out for that no-good son in law of hers who would rob her blind if she didn't pay attention.

He got paid in things like chickens, eggs and vegetables.

Spellbinder wrote:
Quote:
How do you categorize John Edward? Or Peter Popoff? Their "magic" is not perceived as illusion for entertainment sake, but "powers" gifted by who knows what?

I categorize them as evil frauds. I don't think John Edward is as bad as Popoff.

But Popoff claims to see with his missing eye. He also claims to cure people. I wonder how many times he has contributed to the death of some poor, ignorant person.

The tie-in? I don't know if Popoff still appears on BET, but he did for several years, after he got booted off the legitimate religious channels.

Houdinisghost wrote:

Quote:
In 1925, the I.B.M. was formed. It was open to all.
Well, yeah, but, anyone could be blackballed from membership. In Jim Crow towns, of course the Rings were Jim Crow.

I've been a member of the IBM and the SAM in Houston for a long time. During that time, we have had several African-American members, both of the Ring and the Assembly. We have had Ring and Assembly presidents who were African-American. There was only one incident during the time I have been a member of either of these clubs in Houston that anyone came close to being blackballed. He was not a minority of any kind. He was a semi-professional clown who was in the habit of exposing magic. His application never even passed the investigation committee.

Quote:
Emile Clifton, the war hero, joined the I.B.M. Prepaid for the annual convention and the convention hotel--and was thrown out bodily by a bunch of cracker hotel security men because it was a Jim Crow hotel.

I'm curious about this. What year? What town? I'm not doubting that it happened. I'm just curious about when "enlightement" came to various parts of our country.
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Zack
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Does anybody know what year the SAM started allowing black magicians?
Rainboguy
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My favorite was a friend from St. Louis, Harold Russell. Harold was a very good magician, and always had a smile on his face...he loved performing magic and being around fellow magicians.
I have a great photo of Harold and Jay Marshall onstage with one of the showgirls/dancers from the SIEGFREID AND ROY show
landmark
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Here's a book I enjoyed reading on this subject:
Magical Heroes by Jim Magus.
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