From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Kersands, William "Billy"

(born: 1842  -  died: 1915) 

Billy Kersands was a blackface minstrel performer and a vaudeville performer who was known for his comedy, dancing, singing, musical performances, and acrobatics. Kersands was about six feet tall and weighed near 200 pounds. He had a large mouth, which he filled with various objects during his stage performances. He was one of the most popular African American entertainers of his time. Kersands began as a minstrel performer in the 1860s. His exact birth location is not known, but has been given as Baton Rouge, LA. Though, in the 1880 U.S. Federal Census, New York was listed as his birth location when Kersands was living in Louisville, KY, at the home of Carrie Jackson. Kersands was listed as Jackson's son-in-law. According to a newspaper article, Kersands had been a slave in Kentucky and was freed after the Civil War [source: Iowa State Reporter, 12/04/1878, p.8]. In 1895, Billy Kersands married Louisa Strong in Ascension, LA, and the couple would later own a vaudeville company. Billy Kersands performed with a number of groups, the Charles Hicks Minstrels, the Harvey Minstrels, Richards and Pringle's Georgia Minstrels, and others, including his own company Kersands' Minstrels, and Louisa and Billy Kersands' vaudeville company. Billy Kersands performed throughout the United States and in England for Queen Victoria. For more see The Ghost Walks by H. T. Sampson; Historical Dictionary of American Theater: beginnings by James Fisher; and Staging Race by K. Sotiropoulos.

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Cited in this Entry

NKAA Source: Iowa state reporter (newspaper)
NKAA Source: Ghost walks: a chronological history of blacks in show business, 1865-1910
NKAA Source: Staging race : black performers in turn of the century America
NKAA Source: Historical dictionary of American theater: beginnings

Related Entries Citing this Entry

NKAA Entry:  Wilson, James Hembray, Sr. (musician/band director)

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Kersands, William "Billy",” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed June 23, 2021,

Last modified: 2018-01-18 02:05:20