5:30 - 6:30 pm
While generally overlooked in circus histories, Native and African American circus employees had a broad impact on entertainment, art and culture at the turn of the twentieth century. This paper examines how they used a window of opportunity in the traveling circus industry to create networks beneficial to their wider careers, education and travel options. Employees used the circus as a springboard to open opportunities in vaudeville, the jazz industry, the burgeoning film industry and as producers, teachers and mentors. Native and African American employees also used these opportunities to affect better working conditions, gain notoriety, build their own businesses, and relocate overseas.
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