Istanbul University Journal of Women’s Studies
Black Women of The Cakewalk: Reclaiming The Performance Through Corporeal OratureAndi Johnson
The presentation of the Cakewalk through history is contested through white narratives of appropriation followed by Black narratives of reclamation. Originating in the United States as a performance created by slaves, the Cakewalk is a predecessor to many forms of social dance today. However, it is often Black men who receive recognition for the performance while Black women are forgotten to history. In looking at a historical review of the Cakewalk and following two case studies of Aida Overton Walker and Heather Agyepong, this article argues for the importance of Black women in reclaiming the Cakewalk by embedding new narratives into its history through their own bodily presence and agency. The work extends from theories of literature, politics, and media to physical embodiment, understanding that the Black body has agency in the ways it chooses to communicate through visual presence and performance. In doing this work, Aida Overton Walker and Heather Agyepong not only redefine the presence of the Black person through history, but also negotiate how Black identity should and can be presented.