Thomas D. Rice

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Thomas Dartmouth Rice
Thomas Dartmouth Rice
BornMay 20, 1808
New York City
DiedSeptember 19, 1860
New York City
Cause of deathStroke
Resting placeGreen-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York

Thomas Dartmouth Rice (May 20, 1808 – September 19, 1860) was an American entertainer. He developed a character called Jim Crow. Using African-American speech, song, and dance, Rice performed successfully as Jim Crow in America and England. Rice is known as the "Father of the Minstrel Show".[1][2]

Early years[change | change source]

Rice was born in New York City in 1808.[2] He had some formal schooling, and was apprenticed to a woodcarver in his teens. By 1827 though, he had entered the entertainment field and was acting in theaters around the United States.

Career[change | change source]

Rice in costume as Jim Crow

About 1828, Rice developed a burnt-cork blackface character called Jim Crow. This character was a witty, raggedy black man, and was based on a real-life black stableman Rice saw singing and dancing to a tune called "Jump Jim Crow". By 1830, Rice was performing in theaters as Jim Crow. His act was widely popular in America and England.

In the last quarter of the nineteenth century, "Jim Crow" became a term used to describe racial segregation laws in the United States. Whites referred to all black males as "Jim Crows". Rice wrote and appeared in Ginger Blue, Jim Crow in London, and a comic rendition of Othello. He also appeared on Broadway as the title character in an adaptation of Uncle Tom's Cabin.

Death[change | change source]

About 1840, Rice began to suffer from a paralysis that affected his speech and movement. He died of a stroke on September 19, 1860, and was buried in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York.

Footnotes[change | change source]

  1. Encyclopædia Britannica
  2. 2.0 2.1 University of Southern Florida

References[change | change source]