Did You Know?
The Cake Walk was a popular dance among plantation slaves and eventually made the transition to minstrel shows. It was a competitive dance for couples which mocked the aristocratic mannerisms of southern plantation owners.
The Cake Walk began as a dance called the Chalk Line Walk, in which couples would make their way along a chalk line with a pail of water on their heads. The couple that was most erect and spilled the least amount of water would be declared the winner. Later, the pail of water was abandoned and the cake walk became a dance of elegance, with high-stepping promenade and grandiose bowing and bending.
The Cake Walk's name originates from the prize of a cake offered to the best couple by the plantation owner.
If dance festivals were held in the slave quarters the Cake Walk would be a small part of the festivities, with other, more vivacious dances being the bigger part of the evening.
In later years, the fairground attraction known as the cakewalk consisted of a series of platforms of gangways moved by machinery along which one does one's best to walk.
The phrase "to take the cake," meaning to carry off the honors, refers to the Cake Walk.
- Black Dance
By Edward Thorpe. The Overlook Press, 1989.
- Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable
By John Ayto. 17th edition. Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2005.
Last updated by teeterj on Oct. 31, 2011
While the Library has verified the information presented in these files in what it considers to be reliable and authoritative sources, it cannot take responsibility for nor guarantee the accuracy of the information presented.