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Kake Walk at UVM

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The Kake Walk at UVM collection documents a former University of Vermont event that is for some a hallowed tradition and for others overt racism. The terminated competition, which was the highlight of the campus social calendar for over eighty years, featured fraternity brothers in blackface and kinky wigs dancing to the tune of "Cotton Babes."


Time Period Covered: 1896 - 2004 

Source Document: University Archives, Record Group 53: Fraternities and Sororities, Series: Kake Walk 

Published:  May 29, 2010,  University of Vermont, Bailey/Howe Library, Center for Digital Initiatives


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Browsing by:    Topic: ("Ragtime music") remove term

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Title:   Cotton Babes

Creator:  Weinrich, Percy; Lechnyr, Joseph; UVM Band

Date:  1940; 1959

Resource type:   sound recordings

"Cotton Babes" was the signature musical piece used for Kake Walk.  All Kake Walkers choreographed their high-stepping dances to the beat of this instrumental piece. It was performed live by the UVM band during the Walk. The syncopated melody was composed by Percy Weinrich around 1910 in the easy-to-follow musical style of the national cakewalk dance craze, then in its height.  "Cotton Babes" was used as the Kake Walk theme starting in 1912 or 1913. Tradition holds that the university's sheet music was destroyed in a fire in 1929 and that UVM Band Director Joseph Lechnyr rewrote the music from memory. The original record was probably produced in the 1940s - 1950s. Its green and gold label reads: University of Vermont / Cotton Babes / Arranged by Dr. Joseph F. Lechnyr / University of Vermont Band / Director, Dr. Joseph F. Lechnyr / 77764

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