Joe Rastus, Denny Tolliver and Walter Wilkins

The first African-Americans to appear on film

Three of the dancers in a troupe entitled Lucy Daly's Pickanninies then appearing in The Passing Show, which was on tour having run at the Casino Theatre, New York, from 12 May 1894 to August. Although the Pickanninies came from fairly low down the bill, The Passing Show, produced by George Lederer, was an important milestone in American musical theatre, being the very first revue (as opposed to the usual vaudeville fare) and billed as 'a topical extravanganza'. They performed an energetic if somewhat untidy 'breakdown dance' routine for Edison's Kinetograph camera on 6 October 1894, with W.K-L. Dickson producing and William Heise the camera operator. It was a busy day at the Black Maria; those filmed included Walter and Slavin, comic boxers; Cleveland's minstrel show; and a number of performers from Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West show. The Pickaninnies film is described in an 1898 F.Z. Maguire & Co. catalogue as 'A scene representing Southern plantation life before the war. A jig and a breakdown by three colored boys.'

Stephen Herbert / Luke McKernan