Date of Award

Spring 1995

Document Type

Restricted Thesis

Terms of Use

© 1995 Nicole E. Jassie. All rights reserved. Access to this work is restricted to users within the Swarthmore College network and may only be used for non-commercial, educational, and research purposes. Sharing with users outside of the Swarthmore College network is expressly prohibited. For all other uses, including reproduction and distribution, please contact the copyright holder.

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Black Studies Program, French & Francophone Studies Program

First Advisor

Sharon E. Friedler


This thesis traces the origins of hoofing, a particular style of American tap dancing, in a project which would combine historical research, exploration of contemporary examples and styles, and through observation and video (including a fairly comprehensive videography). This style of dance, which appeared to originate and thrive in the streets and studios of black communities, and which was mastered and made famous by, most notably, members of the African American community, has all but disappeared in some modern conceptions of tap dance. Notably, when hoofing was disseminated to a more mainstream audience in America, it was done through the relationship which Hollywood movies of the 1930's and 1940's crafted between black males and white females (that of Bill "Bojangles" Robinson and Shirley Temple is a prominent example), thus losing some of its original meaning and style. The black man was always seen in his capacity to serve the white female. His attitude consisted of being subservient, smiling constantly as if perennially happy, and deferring his own charisma to accent the appeal of the white woman. His steps accompanied hers, so as not to detract from her performance, even if he was the one who taught her the steps. Thus, in this presentation, the viewer has lost out on the original flair, the freedom to improvise and solo, and the expressions of the face and body which tell the African American hoofer's story. How and why this passionate form of expression and art which was so central to the African American community has evolved to its present status is what I am interested in exploring. Methodology includes research and personal experience.


hoofing, American tap dance, African American dance, slavery