Introducing Bert Williams: Burnt Cork, Broadway, and the Story of America's First Black Star

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Basic Books, Aug 1, 2008 - Performing Arts - 416 pages
According to critics of his time, Bert Williams was “the Greatest Comedian on the American Stage.” A black Bahamian immigrant, Williams made his start as a barker advertising the rough-and-tumble “medicine shows” that dotted the Wild West at the end of the nineteenth century. Not long after joining a minstrel troupe and donning the burnt- cork makeup of blackface, he teamed up with African American George Walker in a sixteen-year partnership that would take them from rural western mining towns to the bright lights of Broadway.

In Introducing Bert Williams, historian Camille Forbes reveals a fascinating figure, initiating the reader into the vivid world of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century popular entertainment. Williams's long and varied career is a whirlwind of drama, glamour, and ambition—nothing less than the birth of American show business.


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INTRODUCING BERT WILLIAMS: Burnt-Cork, Broadway, and the Story of America's First Black Star

User Review  - Kirkus

A neglected titan of popular culture gets his due.Forbes (Literature/Univ. of California, San Diego) presents the life and career of Bert Williams (1874-1922), a protean figure in American ... Read full review

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User Review  - juglicerr - LibraryThing

This is a chronicle of the course, and significance of the career of Bert Williams, a Black showman (comedian, singer, dancer, actor). Williams was the first to become a star with both whites and ... Read full review


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About the author (2008)

Camille F. Forbes, historian, critic, and performer, is currently an assistant professor in the Department of Literature at the University of California, San Diego.

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