Kersands, Billy [William Kersands ]
- Claude Conyers
[William Kersands ]
(b Baton Rouge, 1842?; d Artesia, NM, Jun 30, 1915). American comedian, singer, and dancer. He began performing with the minstrel troupes managed by Charles Hicks in the early 1860s, soon winning a reputation as a comic song-and-dance man. After a European tour in 1870, he played with most of the major black minstrel troupes in America, and in 1885 he formed his own company, which became well known for its marching band. He was the most popular and the best paid African American comedian of his day, renowned for his comic routines involving his large mouth, which he could contort in odd ways or stretch to accommodate a variety of unlikely objects. He was also proficient at dancing, singing, acrobatics, and drumming. As a dancer, his specialty was the Virginia essence, a flat-footed, smoothly gliding dance style that accommodated his comic antics. Among his signature songs, “Old Aunt Jemima” (...