Rice, Thomas Dartmouth

Rice, Thomas Dartmouth (“Daddy”)

(1808–60) minstrel performer; born in New York. He was a little-known entertainer when sometime about 1828–31 (it is generally believed although cannot be absolutely proven) he first performed in Louisville, Ky., in blackface (from burnt cork) and rags, a routine he called "Jump Jim Crow." He was supposedly mimicking a crippled black slave (of a Mr. Crow in Louisville) he had observed entertaining his fellow workers in a stable. The song instantly became popular; Rice made the song and his dance the centerpiece of his full-scale musical shows he called "Ethiopian operas" with which he toured widely in the U.S.A. and British Isles to great acclaim (1836, 1838, 1843). To promote himself he adopted the name "Jim Crow" and some believe this is the origin of the name used to refer to African-Americans, specifically when referring to segregation laws. Although he was not the first white man to perform in blackface, the popularity of his singing-dancing-comic routines is said to have led to the minstrel shows of the 1840s. He played the leading role in the New York production of Uncle Tom's Cabin in 1854, but died in poverty.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
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