Emanuel (Manuel) Woodson was born Nov. 1, 1865, the son of a registered freeman of color and a mother who was described as mulatto in St. Louis, MO. The Woodson family was a talented family of performers. At least two of Woodson's siblings became professional performers as young adults: a sister who played piano and a brother who was a revered clog dancer, minstrel and ultimately, circus performer.
Woodson's career began in the U.S. as a performer with a minstrel troupe. In 1883, he traveled to Europe to perform. He became well known at French and German circus venues. It wasn't until after he married Olga Brown, a celebrated trapeze artist and strongwoman, he became a main draw as a celebrated contortionist also known as Blitzmensch. Woodson continued to perform into the early 1900s. He then settled in Brussels with his wife and daughter and served as the stage manager of the Palais d'Ete. He died in 1915 of liver disease in Brussels where he is buried. In an obituary, one theatre critic noted: "In walking about with Mr. Woodson, we could not help but notice that he was a highly respected citizen in the Belgian capital."
Woodson is the inspiration for a character in the new book I’m working on about his wife, Miss Lala, who was immoratilized by Degas in Miss Lala at the Cirque Fernando.
Mixed Experience History Month is the annual blog post series created by New York Times best-selling author Heidi Durrow celebrating the history of the Mixed experience. Established in 2007, Mixed Experience History Month is an effort to highlight the long history of folks and events involved in the Mixed experience. Please look for more profiles of people, places and events of the Mixed experience every weekday of May at Lightskinned-ed Girl, the blog! Thanks for reading. And check out some of the previous year's profiles: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013. Copyright 2013.