Bert Williams,generally known for performing in Blackface, was born in Nassau, Bahamas onNovember 12, 1874 and he died in Manhattan, New York City, New York on March 4,1922. Due to the illness of his father, him and family moved to San Franciscowhen he was at the age of 10 years old. While attending school in his teenage years,he showed little to no interest in his academics. His heart was with theperforming arts, he sung in the choir at his high school. At the age of 16, heran away from home to perform Medicine Shows, which are shows where people tourto perform all types of entertainment and sell medicine at the same time. Lateron, Williams eventually returned home.
Williams attended Stanford University,however, ended up dropping to pursue his career in being a performer, in musicand comedy. He soon began to perform in saloons and minstrel shows throughoutnorthern California.In 1893, Bertsigned with Martin and Selig’s Minstrels, where he met his soon to be careerpartner George Walker. These men traveled across the country performing minstrelshows. They were called the “Two Real Coons.
” Williams and Walker performedsongs and comic routines. They were considered the two most successful comedianduos during that era. Dahomey and Sons of Ham was their biggest hitstogether. This duo unfortunately, would soon come to an end, when Walker diedin 1909 from being ill. In 1910, after the death of Walker, Florenz Ziegfeldhired Williams, to be one of the leading stars in “In Ziegfeld Follies”. Duringhis time performing in “Follies”, he became the first black star in a leadingwhite Broadway revue. From then his popularity and fame grew nationwide. Williamsstarred in a movie called ‘A Natural Born Gambler’ in 1916.
His finalperformance in Follies was in 1919 and in 1920 he signed with a New York Company,The Shuberts. Williams began acting in the production, Under the Bamboo Tree inDecember of 1921. During the touring of the play, Williams began to developpneumonia. On February 21, 1922, he fainted on stage in Detroit, Michigan whilerehearsing for Under the Bamboo Tree. A month later, Bert unfortunately passedaway. Bert Williams was the best-selling African American recording artistbefore the 1920s.Theaters Owner’s Booking Agency The Theatre Owner’sBooking Agency (TOBA) was established in 1920, by the people who were involvedin the vaudeville circuit; which is a theatre with mostly white owners thatinvolved comedians, blues and jazz singers, musicians, and other types ofperformances for African American audiences. Sherman H.
Dudley, who was aperformer in the vaudeville circuit was the inspiration for TOBA. Dudley was recognizedby the name of ‘Lone Star Comedian’ and began attempting to established blackowned establishments across the United States. Dudley was set in WashingtonD.C. in 1911, and worked as a general manager and treasurer for the ColoredActors’ Union.
He established the S.H. Dudley Theatrical Enterprises, which hewould begin leasing and buying theatres in the areas of D.C. and Virginia. In1916, is when the Dudley Circuit would stretch from the South all the way tothe Midwest. Black performers were enable to secure longer contracts for anextended season.
TOBA was thevaudeville circuit for black entertainers during the Roaring 1920s. The Presidentof TOBA was the President of the Bijou Theatre in Nashville, Tennessee, MiltonStarr and the booker was Sam Reevin who was from Chattanooga, Tennessee. Duringits peak in the 1920s, TOBA had well over than one hundred theatres. TOBA wasalso had different acronyms like, Tough on Black Artists, or as Gertrude Raineywould say, “Tough on Black Asses”. TOBA only booked black entertainers intotheatres on the East Coast and went as far as Oklahoma. This organization wasthe only form of entertainment that sought out the black audience on aconsistent basis. When the Great Depression hit in the 1930s, TOBA began tolose its popularity and Dudley sold his chain of theatres to a cinema company.Some of the notable black artist who came from TOBA were; Ether Waters(singer), Bessie Smith (singer), Louis Armstrong (musician), (Duke Ellington(musician), Josephine Baker, that’s just to name a few.
TOBA still exist todaybut its recognized as the Chitlin’ Circuit. Arthur Miller Arthur Miller, whois a famous playwright, was born on October 17, 1915 in Harlem, New York City,New York and passed away on February 10, 2005 in Roxbury, Connecticut. Miller wasborn to Polish immigrants. His parents had a thriving clothing company untilthe Stock Market crashed in 1929 and his family was forced into poverty and tomove to Brooklyn. While in high school Miller showed no interest in hisacademics. He later went on to major in Journalism at the University ofMichigan but ended up getting his Bachelor of Arts in English. While in undergrad,he wrote for the student paper, MichiganDaily. He also wrote his first play called, No Villain, during hissophomore year in undergrad.
He graduated fromthe University of Michigan in 1938. Shortly after in the same year, he joinedthe Federal Theatre Project, which was a program provided by the New Dealduring Franklin D. Roosevelt presidency, which provided jobs in theatre.
Millerwas drafted in World War II but was unable to fight due to a previous injury.In 1940, Miller first play was produced and won the Theatre Guild’s NationalAward, The Man Who Had All the Luck. After four showings, this play was shutdown after bad reviews.
Miller published his first book “FOCUS” in 1945. Twoyears, in 1947, after he published his book, Miller has his first play producedon Broadway. “All My Sons” established his reputation as a playwright, and hiscareer took off from there.
After the success of “All My Sons”, Miller wrotethe “Death of a Salesman” and this became one of his most famous pieces ofwork. “Death of a Salesman” went on win a Pulitzer Prize and a Drama CriticsCircle Award. As well as, ran for more than seven hundred performances. Hisnext play was called “The Crucible”, this was considered Miller’s mostcontroversial dramas.
The Crucible first performance was on January 23, 1953 atthe Martin Beck Theatre on Broadway. In the same year, this production was aTony Award for the category of ‘best play”. In 1956, ArthurMiller was called to be in front of the House Un-American Activities Committee(HUAC), and was found guilty and convicted of contempt of Congress for notgiving up names to alleged Communist in his testimony.
After this trial Arthurwas put on the Hollywood blacklist. In the 1960s and throughout the 70s, hewrote very little work. He began to focus on his personal issues. In 1983, hetraveled to Beijing, China to direct and produce Death of a Salesman. A year later Miller published a book about hisexperience in Beijing, Salesmen in Beijing.
The early 90s is when Arthur’s workhad a revival, “The Ride Down Mount Morgan” and “The Last Yankee”.All of ArthurMiller’s plays dealt with the themes about life, death, and human purposes. Whilewriting over 35 plays, Arthur’s career lasted for seven decades and he isconsidered one of the greatest American Playwrights of the twentieth century.