The triumphant story of how an all-Black Broadway cast and crew changed musical theatre—and the world—forever.
"This musical introduced Black excellence to the Great White Way. Broadway was forever changed and we, who stand on the shoulders of our brilliant ancestors, are charged with the very often elusive task of carrying that torch into our present."—Billy Porter, Tony, Grammy, and Emmy Award-winning actor
"The 1920s were the years of Manhattan's Black Renaissance. It began with Shuffle Along." —Langston Hughes
If Hamilton, Rent, or West Side Story captured your heart, you'll love this in-depth look into the rise of the 1921 Broadway hit, Shuffle Along, the first all-Black musical to succeed on Broadway. No one was sure if America was ready for a show featuring nuanced, thoughtful portrayals of Black characters—and the potential fallout was terrifying. But from the first jazzy, syncopated beats of composers Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake, New York audiences fell head over heels.
When Broadway Was Black is the story of how Sissle and Blake, along with comedians Flournoy Miller and Aubrey Lyles, overcame poverty, racism, and violence to harness the energy of the Harlem Renaissance and produce a runaway Broadway hit that launched the careers of many of the twentieth century's most beloved Black performers. Born in the shadow of slavery and establishing their careers at a time of increasing demands for racial justice and representation for people of color, they broke down innumerable barriers between Black and white communities at a crucial point in our history.
Author and pop culture expert Caseen Gaines leads readers through the glitz and glamour of New York City during the Roaring Twenties to reveal the revolutionary impact one show had on generations of Americans, and how its legacy continues to resonate today.
Praise for When Broadway Was Black:
"A major contribution to culture."—Brian Jay Jones, New York Times bestselling author of Jim Henson: The Biography
"With meticulous research and smooth storytelling, Caseen Gaines significantly deepens our understanding of one of the key cultural events that launched the Harlem Renaissance."—A Lelia Bundles, New York Times bestselling author of On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker
"Absorbing..."—The Wall Street Journal
Previously published as Footnotes: The Black Artists Who Rewrote the Rules of the Great White Way
Author and journalist Caseen Gaines has written for Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, and NY Mag. He holds an MA from Rutgers Uni in American Studies, focusing on racial representations in popular culture.