The First African American Celebrity Still Experienced Racism

An entertainer pointing at audience
Via Pikist
Shonda Buchanan
August 28, 2020

The audience erupted in applause when he pulled a rabbit out of his top hat – then gasped when he projected his voice onto the rabbit!

Smiling, he grabbed the shiny saw for his next magic trick – but inside he was shaking. He didn’t know if he’d survive the night.

Sweat soaked his shirt. He felt the eyes of KKK members in the audience. He heard their thoughts: “Why that Negro onstage in front of white people?” 

35 Black people were lynched that year – but he braved the danger anyway.

When the curtain closed, the hotel manager informed him that, were he to eat or sleep there that night, violence would ensue.

His heart thundered in his chest. Those Southern trees held Black bodies. He refused to be one of them! But what would he do?

When diners started carving the roasted pig, he projected his voice to it, making it squeal, terrifying them! He didn’t eat there that night, but left town with thousands of their dollars.

Richard Potter was one of the first Black celebrities, famous around the country for his act. So why has he been lost to history?

Like many of our ancestors, his Black excellence has been hidden. But we can keep his memory alive!

And like Potter, we can use our talents as weapons to determine our lives and careers in the face of systemic racism and discrimination.

We have a quick favor to ask:

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