Interview with Washboard Bill Cooke on entertainment in Florida

Date: August 18, 1987

Source: S1685 , Container 5

Type: Sound

Download: MP3


  • One audio cassette. Recorded at his home. Cooke discusses black entertainment in Florida. Born in Dupont, just south of St. Augustine, on 4 July, Cooke worked as a street performer, a jook joint musician, a nightclub entertainer, and a railway worker. His mother ran a jook joint, where he was first exposed to music and dance. In the interviews, he discusses jook joints; Florida minstrel acts such as Florida Blossom, Rabbit Foot, and Silas Green; black vaudeville in Florida; Ringling Brothers circus; segregation in theaters and entertainment; blackface; national entertainers he knew such as Amos and Andy, Step'n Fetchit, and Al Jolson; racism in advertising; and Pullman Porters he knew. In 1956, he made a recording with Pete Seeger and Sonny Terry called Washboard Country Band. In 1992, he won the Florida Folk Heritage Award. The Folk Arts in Education Project in Palm Beach County was a joint venture between the Palm Beach County School System and the Florida Folklife Program. It was conducted between 1986 and 1987 by folklorist Jan Rosenberg with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts to add to existing social studies curriculum. The goal was to impart an appreciation of multi-ethnic traditions and provide a sense of place to the mobile student population. The project focused on the Florida Studies component for fourth grade students. The project consisted of field research to identify local traditions and folk artists, a series of five two-day seminars to acquaint teachers with the use of folklore and folk arts, in-school programs conducted by a folklorist and traditionalist, which included visits by local folk artists. In total, the project involved 15 schools with 779 students.

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