Circus Acts: The Carolina Twins: Millie and Christine McKoy

0 Posted by - May 21, 2021 - BLACK WOMEN, ENTERTAINMENT, SLAVERY

By M. Swift

Known as the “The Carolina Twins” and “The Two-Headed Nightingale,” Millie and Christine McKoy were conjoined twins born slaves in Columbus County, NC in 1851. Owned by the blacksmith Jabez McKay, the McKoys resided on the McKay farm near Whiteville. The youngest of nine children, Christine and Millie were conjoined at the spine.


At just 10 months, McKay sold the twins to South Carolina promoter John C. Pervis. The agreement between the two was that McKay would get a cut of the pay from the shows. Over a year later, the McKoy twins were sold to another promoter by the name of Brower. From there, Brower and his patron Joseph Pearson Smith made a fortune displaying the children at North Carolina’s first state fair in 1853.

Seeing a chance to make more money from the McKoys, he sold them to a Texan who presented him with a chance at $45,000 in land—in today’s currency. As it would turn out, he would be conned after sending them off. Brower had to tell Smith about the sale and gave him the managerial rights to the McKoy twins.

After several years, Smith finally got Millie and Christine back in 1857. By now, the 6-year-olds had made it to England, a hot market for the sideshow part of the circus business at the time. Following the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, the twins were reunited with their mother Monemia and the Smith family gave them an education and classical music training.


Millie and Christine continued performing in the circus—including P.T. Barnum’s circus—throughout the late 19th century. Their act including singing and playing instruments, hence the nickname “the Two-Headed Nightingale.” In the 1880s, the McKoy twins moved back to Whiteville to live on the farm they were born. Since they had left, their father purchased the farm from Jabez McKay.

The twins would until late 1912 when Millie contracted tuberculosis. After her death, Christine lingered for 12 hours before passing away.


M. Swift primarily writes on moments and important figures in Black history for Your Black World. He also writes heavily on wrestling, comics, gaming, and Black sci-fi and fantasy.



  • Erick Dean Tippett May 1, 2017 - 4:51 pm

    Are there no photos or pictures of these two twins for us to observe?

  • Erick Dean Tippett May 1, 2017 - 4:52 pm

    Are there no photos or pictures of these two?

  • Tmoe May 2, 2017 - 3:41 pm

    There a lot of pictures of them online. They could have used one or two in the article.

    • M. Swift May 2, 2017 - 9:24 pm

      @Tmoe The way Word Press is set up for BT, pictures are displayed on the homepage as a preview to the article. I would prefer to have a picture of them in the article though.

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