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Master Juba

Stage Name

Birth Name

' Master Juba'

William Henry Lane

    Before the end of the Civil War, black and white performers were rarely allowed to appear on Stage together, with the exception of Master Juba ( William Henry Lane.) Master Juba was known as the " Dancinest fellow ever was."Lane was a free born negro born in Providence, Rhode Island in 1825. It is said Lane learned how to dance from a saloon and dance hall dancer "Uncle" Jim Lowe.

    Now living and working in New York's 'Five Points district' namely "Paradise Square" which was packed with Irish immigrants and "Free Negro slaves." Lane would learn to Jig from the Irish as well as copy all the

other dancers styles and creatively mixed these diverse dance styles together. As a Jig and Buck and Wing dancer he was already considered the best dancer of all time. 'Master Juba' was wont to delight the rounder's and others who came to New York to see a elephant in the Five Points district, known as Dickens' Dance House.

    Lane competed in many local dance contests and defeated all comers including the best white Jig dancer of all time 'Jack (John) Diamond' at the Chatham Theatre, and won again at the Bowery Theatre; winning the $500 prize both times in 1844 as most dancers were Jig and Clog dancers. By 1845 Juba beat Diamond every time which allowed Juba to receive top billing in a all white minstrel company called the Ethiopian Minstrels where he was billed as the 'Greatest Dancer In The World'. Juba joined other minstrel groups such as "White's Serenaders." Lane was brought out as a professional dancer with great success throughout the United States, the handbills basically described him as a God of the dance.

    Lane danced against another Diamond, namely a younger black man named Johnny Diamond who he lost one match too at the Boylston Gardens in Boston, MA. ( This is confused with Jack Diamond.) John hung out around the old Fly Market in New York city and danced in the contests during that time. Lane was so impressed by him he took him along with him on many tours. John Diamond was first brought into public notice by the enterprising P. T. Barnum, at Vauxhall Gardens around 1840, when he was just 17 years of age. He created quite a furor and P. T. B. traveled with him all over the country, Diamond dancing matches with whoever came on. Diamond finally died after a triumphant career, in Philadelphia, October 29th, 1857.

    Lane was afterwards introduced to the English public while touring with the Georgia Champion Minstrels ( Some state it was Pell's Ethiopian Serenaders) and met with a very good reception, and danced before Queen Victoria in Buckingham Palace. The English were quite familiar with Jigs, Reels, Hornpipes, clogs and the like but reported that Juba was very unique, almost as if he created a new form of dancing. An English critic once wrote: " The style as well as the execution is unlike anything ever seen in this country .." Charles Dickens wrote of him: "His leg movement resembled the noises of the fingers on a tambourine." Those noises were a unique tapping sound and what they didn't realize at the time was the creation of Tap Dancing ( Others would add to this as well.) Lane was one of the most influential dancers in the 19th century and beyond. Lane married, founded a dance studio and remained in England till his death in 1852 ( The death date is uncertain but most agree to being 1852.)

    There was a famous black dancer named "Tom from Palestine," Texas, that was known for "putting a glass of water on his head and making his feet go like trip-hammers and sounding something like a snare drum, he would'whirl around and such' while all his movements were from the waist down, without spilling a drop of water. He was known as'The Jigginest fellow ever was' (sounds like Juba.)

   A Juba (Giouba) was also a dance created by slaves featuring hand clapping and foot stomping, referred to as 'patting the Juba.' The word is traced back to its origin in Africa where it is seen in a dance called "Djouba" and in Haiti, where it is called "Martinique."

   In 1857 the Morris Brothers’ Minstrels where created. It was with this troupe that Fred Wilson introduced the clog dance for the first time with a minstrel troupe that same year, ( Also Dick Sands, Tim Hayes, Dick Carroll and Ben Goldsmith introduced the clog dance with the minstrel troupes, as well.) This proved to be a death blow for the Jig champions domination in Minstrel show's.

Birth Place

Birth Date



Providence, R.I. (some say Mississippi) 18251852 Yes Yes

Dance Types

Related Dance Partners

Music Titles

Buck and Wing Johnny Diamond Adzohu, Juba Handclaps
Hambone       John Diamond Walk Around
Jig (Gigue,) Clog       Juba! (1913)
(Pattin') Juba Dance       Juba (1941 Dett)
Juba's Imitation Dance ( Imitated other dancers)       Juba and a O'Brown Squaw (Marsalis)
Ring Shout       Juba Dance (Sinatra)
Shuffle (Tap)     Juba Juba Jubalee (Lane)
Statue Dance ( Probably the Pedestal Dance)     Kentucky Juba

Night Clubs

Theaters etc


Congo Square, Place (a location) Buckingham Palace 1846 - Whites Serenaders Minstrel Troupe
Dickens Dance House (NY)       1848 - Ethiopian Serenaders
Vauxhall Garden       1848 - Pell's Serenaders

Books, Magazine Articles on the dance...



Date Published


Character & Oriental Dances Frost, Helen 1927 A.S. Barnes
Dance Encyclopedia, the Chujoy, Anatole 1949 A.S. Barnes & Co.
$ Jazz Dance Stearns, Marshall (1954) rv.1994 Da Capo Press
Jig, Clog, and Breakdown Dancing Made Easy, With Sketches of Noted Jig Dancers E. James 1873 ??
Juba and American minstrelsy Hannah, Marian 1946 Auvergne Publishers
Juba This, Juba That (Juba based Children's Book) Virginia A. Tashjian 1969 Little, Brown
$ Juba To Jive: A Dictionary of African-American Slang Major, Clarence (1970) 1994 Penguin USA
Yorston's Popular History of the World, Division 3 (Rome "The End Of Juba") John C. Yorston 1883 ??
New York Clipper Articles Charles White, Frank Dumont, Ralph Keeler 1860, 1873, 1914 Link

Films / Videos

Musicians / Bands / Singers

Writers / Poets

"Dancing" series Bessie Jones Charles Dickens (w)
"Conga Virtuoso" - Giovanni Hidalgo Dett Edward Le Roy Rice (w)
      Frank Sinatra Michael B. Levitt (w)
      Frankie Lane  
      Wynton Marsalis Septet  

  • NOTE: Geographic Locations: 1) "Southern City of Juba, Sudan." 2) The Juba River, Somalia
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