Ellen Armstrong was an African American female magician and daughter of Prof. John Hartford Armstrong.
She got her start at the age of six as assistant in her father's show. As a young child, she showed great skill as a "psychic" performer, and even had her own mindreading segment of the show.
By her teens, she was also doing a routine known as "Chalk Talk", in which she told stories by drawing characters on a chalk board. With the addition of a few strokes of the chalk, each picture would completely change to a new character, adding to the story.
When her father died suddently in 1939, Ellen took over his show, becoming the first (and only) African American female magician touring with her own show.
For 31 years, she continued to perform the Armstrong show up and down the East Coast, mainly at black churches and schools. Her tricks were common magic fare, but some had a cultural twist. For example, when she magically produced a photograph in theSand Frame illusion, the photo was of boxer Joe Louis, the black sports hero.
Her cartoon skills became more and more popular, and eventually became the major part of the show.
She spent her final years in retirement in South Carolina.
An excellent account of her life story is found in the book, Conjure Times: Black Magicians in America by Jim Haskins and Kathleen Benson.
Credit: This material originated on MagicTricks.com.
My people never cease to amaze and inspire me.
Asante Sana to Sister Ellen, her father and family.
Fantastic! I am going to look for the book!
Thank you for the great article.
I like how her birthday and burial are a mystery!
That adds to the overall effects!
A black female magician would make a great story so I nominate Valjeane to do the honors... Only because I don't trust Milton to do it justice! Lol