Bloomberg Anywhere Remote Login Bloomberg Terminal Demo Request


Connecting decision makers to a dynamic network of information, people and ideas, Bloomberg quickly and accurately delivers business and financial information, news and insight around the world.


Financial Products

Enterprise Products


Customer Support

  • Americas

    +1 212 318 2000

  • Europe, Middle East, & Africa

    +44 20 7330 7500

  • Asia Pacific

    +65 6212 1000


Industry Products

Media Services

Follow Us

Minstrel Was Big Hit With Charles Dickens: Lewis Lapham

'Darkest America'
"Darkest America: Black Minstrelsy from Slavery to Hip-Hop" is written by Yuval Taylor and Jake Austen. Source: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. via Bloomberg

In 1840, William Henry Lane enraptured audiences with his smooth moves. Showman P.T. Barnum first presented him to the public in blackface, with giant vermillion lips and a woolly wig.

(To listen to the podcast, click here.)

For Charles Dickens, who saw his act in New York, Lane was the “greatest dancer known,” capable of “snapping his fingers, rolling his eyes, turning in his knees, presenting the backs of his legs in front, spinning about on his toes and heels like nothing but the man’s fingers on the tambourine.”

In fact, Lane was a black man, burnt cork hiding his race. A white audience at the time would have felt insulted if presented with a real black dancer.

By 1844, Lane was so popular he could drop the racist pretense. He appeared with a white troupe before white theatergoers, in the process integrating the American stage.

I spoke with Yuval Taylor, co-author of “Darkest America: Black Minstrelsy from Slavery to Hip-Hop,” on the following topics:

1. Minstrel Popularity

2. Racist Stereotypes

3. Black Freedom

4. Minstrel Influence

5. Hip-Hop

To buy this book in North America, click here.

(Lewis Lapham is the founder of Lapham’s Quarterly and the former editor of Harper’s magazine. He hosts “The World in Time” interview series for Bloomberg News.)

Muse highlights include Zinta Lundborg on NYC Weekend and Greg Evans on movies.

Please upgrade your Browser

Your browser is out-of-date. Please download one of these excellent browsers:

Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera or Internet Explorer.