“A negro Santa Claus went down a chimney head first and landed on the fire,” A 1901 news report, from Bloomfield, New Jersey, read. “The surprised occupants of the room flogged him.”
Other reports from the time tell of Christmas parties enlivened by “black-face” Santas, singing “negro melodies.”
In 1915, a gushing account of President Wilson’s honeymoon at a Virginia resort included a description of a festive party “presided over by a dusky Santa Claus,” with a large “gaily decorated” Christmas tree.
“Before [the tree] disported 15 negroes, whose antics and musical efforts kept the President and everybody else almost convulsed with laughter.”
Four years later, the Pittsburgh Daily Post carried a report about “the first negro Santa ever put on the streets of any city”. He had been hired by the Volunteers of America in response to “appeals from poor coloured children”, the newspaper added.
But the real breakthrough for black Santas came in 1936, when a certain tap-dancing legend became Harlem’s “first negro Santa Claus” at an annual Christmas Eve party for underprivileged children.
Q: Who was this tap dancing legend?