The Chocolate Revues

 

From the middle 1800's through the first half of the twentieth century "Jim Crow" laws ruled the land. Black people were considered second class citizens and were never allowed admission into the white girl shows. The enterprising carnival showmen's answer to this dilemma was to frame out black girl shows. Every major carnival had a black and a white girl show on their midway right up to the early 1960's.


These Chocolate Revues or "Jig Shows" as they were known in the parlance of the business, not only rivaled the white shows, they often far exceeded them and had the most talented performers on stage with colorful and elaborate sets that put the white girl shows to shame.


The Most famous of these was Leon Claxton's 'Harlem In Havana' (Later the name was changed to the Harlem Revue for political reasons when Castro took over Cuba) which worked for decades on the Royal American Shows midway. Here we see a wonderful example of one of these shows, the colorful 'Hot Harlem Revue' on the Cetlin & Wilson Shows in 1940.

 

International Independent Showmen's Museum

 


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