He Wanted to Use Magic To Escape Oppression

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For the average person, pulling a rabbit out of a hat or finding the ace of spades in a sea of cards while blindfolded is no ordinary tasks, but world-famous magician Benjamin Rucker made it look easy.

Born in 1892, his stage name was Black Herman and he was nothing short of astonishing. Not only did he perform unbelievable magic tricks, but he also pushed a political message of Black pride and African nationalism throughout his shows to empower and uplift his crowds.

Steeped in the philosophies of Marcus Garvey, Herman used magic to further a radical agenda of getting African-Americans to completely separate themselves from whites and become wholly independent. Many of his tricks payed homage to African culture and heritage in order to reinvigorate the spirit of Pan-Africanism in his all-Black audiences.

For example, he started his show off by proclaiming he learned his secrets from Zulu witch doctors and asserted that he was a direct descendant of Moses. In one of his famous rope escape tricks, he declared that he applied the exact techniques that Africans used to escape slavery.

Even more fascinating, Herman sold an “African Secret Remedy” at his shows that he claimed led to immortality. He believed that Blacks, who ingested the remedy, could outlive their oppressors and eventually live a life full of freedom.

Herman’s signature trick included him being buried alive for three days, which left audiences in deep suspense as they returned to the theatre day after day to find out if he was still alive -- of course, he was. Interestingly enough, when he actually died nobody believed it so over a thousand people demanded to see his body and poked him with a safety pin to ensure he was truly dead.

Although Herman could not read or write, he “magically” authored a book in 1925. If you want to read about his incredible story in his own words, pick up a limited edition reprint of his original book, Black Herman’s Secrets of Magic.

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