'Black Jack': Forgotten Harlem Renaissance Magician Rises Again
ORLANDO, Fla., Oct. 6 /PRNewswire/ -- The early twentieth century was a time of prosperity, growth and rapid change. Radios were becoming a common household object and stage performers were the entertainment superstars. Whether they were actors, Vaudevillians or musicians, theaters across America were packed on a nightly basis with people coming to see their favorite stars. Among the biggest stars of the stage set was a man whose name has been largely lost to modernity. In his new book "Black Jack" (published by iUniverse), author George Patton tells the story of the great illusionist, mentalist and Harlem Renaissance figure Benjamin "Black Herman" Rucker.
"Black Jack" opens with the 107th birthday of "Miss Eva," the oldest resident in a small Cleveland retirement home. As her party winds down, Miss Eva is escorted back to her room by her favorite orderly, Lou. While talking, she begins to reminisce to her friend about her long life. Thus begins the tale of how Miss Eva went from being a young, naive girl from Tupelo, Mississippi to being the assistant, lover and eventually wife of one of the greatest American magicians.
While Jim Crow laws ruled the first half of the twentieth century, some very popular performers were able to circumvent them. Black Herman was one of those elite black performers whose popularity was so strong that many of his audiences were integrated. This was due in no small part to the skill of his showmanship and the strength of his personality. As "Black Jack" is told through the eyes of his assistant, lover and second wife Eva, it gives a colorful yet unvarnished glimpse into the life of this great performer and self-made man.
Much like his counterpart Harry Houdini, Black Herman's death was as mysterious as his life and past. While performing in Louisville, KY in 1934, Black Herman collapsed on stage, dead from an apparent heart attack. So many people believed that Black Herman's death was actually another of his elaborate tricks that throngs of people gathered at the funeral home expecting the gregarious performer to leap from his casket at any moment. He was eventually buried in the prestigious Woodlawn Cemetery in New York City.
George Patton Jr. is the great nephew of Eva and Benjamin Rucker. Born and raised in Manhattan, he graduated from Fairleigh Dickerson University in New Jersey. After receiving his BS, he went to work with his mother who was working for Morgan Stanley at the time as a stock broker. Patton found that he was proficient at financial matters and became a financial planner. In 1998, when Patton's mother retired, he moved with her to Orlando.
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