In 1900, Patrick Henry Chappelle, an African American from Florida, produced a musical comedy called “A Rabbit’s Foot,” and by 1902 his Rabbit’s Foot Company was touring as a tent show, though the popular attraction was billed as “too good for a tent.”
Rabbit’s Foot was the only African American owned and operated Minstrel Show at that time. The company was based in Port Gibson, MS. Following Chappelle’s death in 1911, the company was taken over by F. S. (Fred Swift) Wolcott, a white entrepreneur from Michigan who had been running a small minstrel company. In the spring of 1918 Wolcott moved the company’s headquarters to Port Gibson, where troupe members stayed in the winter, either in train cars or in the homes of locals, and rehearsed on a covered stage at Wolcott’s home. The show remained popular through the 1940s, and records suggest that its final performances were in 1959.
Among the ranks of the Rabbit Foot Minstrels were many blues singers and musicians including; Ma Rainey, Ida Cox, Bessie Smith, Louis Jordan, Big Joe Williams, Sid Hemphill, Willie Nix, Maxwell Street Jimmy, Jim Jackson, Bogus Ben Covington, Dwight “Gatemouth” Moore, Johnny “Daddy Stovepipe” Watson, trombonist Leon “Pee Wee” Whittaker and many others.