Talk Uncovers the Racially Charged Roots of the Cake Walk (2/11)


Talk Uncovers the Racially Charged Roots of the Cake Walk (2/11)

  • Ali McGhee

    Ali McGhee is a journalist, creative writer, and academic. Her work has appeared in The Edgar Allan Poe Review, Romantic Circles, Symbiosis: A Journal of Anglo-American Literary...

Cake Walk

Revolve Asheville, in the River Arts District's Cotton Mill Studios, is quickly becoming known as the reigning spot in town for bringing the Asheville art world into conversations happening in the global art and academic worlds. Their ongoing "First Draft" series features local artists exploring topics they're researching. The next installment in the series highlights the work of photographer and writer Anna Helgeson. Her talk, titled "Racism is a Piece of Cake!" happens this Thursday from 7-9 pm.

The talk explores the complex, multi-layered Cake Walk tradition in America. Helgeson traces its origins to carnivalesque traditions of mimicry on plantations, when slaves would parody the affectations of the upper classes. It quickly grew in popularity and became, according to Helgeson, "America's first cultural export to Europe" as well as a "popular dance craze." Somewhere in its long history, its origins as, first, a coded act of defiance, and then a mass cultural phenomenon that evolved into minstrel performances were lost. Most of us now know the Cake Walk as a fundraising event hosted by churches and schools. Helgeson uncovers the tradition's rich and tangled roots to shed new light on our "cultural amnesia" surrounding this and other cultural practices born of slavery.


Revolve is known for hosting lively conversations in a beautiful space, and this evening is no different. You can reserve your spot now through Revolve's website. Because of limited seating, reservations are required. Tickets are $10 (free for students).