Black Musical Theater- Alana Edmond

Black Musical Theater by Alana Edmond

What is Black Musical Theater?

Black Musical Theater refers to African American theatrical performances in the 1900s, which grew popular specifically in New York City. 


During the 19th and early 20th century, Black people were often portrayed as extremely racist caricatures such as the use of Black face by European actors. However, even Black people themselves occasionally performed these caricatures as a way to get exposure within the theater industry. This is evident in Bert Williams’ and George Walker’s The Gold Bug in which they played “Two Real Coons” performing the Cake Walk.  Although this play was successful, it was highly offensive, as it portrayed Black people in a negative, stereotypical light. 


Approaching the mid 20th century, African American Musical Theater began to portray African Americans in a more favorable and creative light. Some of the most famous African American Musicals are: 

  • Porgy and Bess (1935) 
  • The Swing Mikado (1937)
  • Raisin (1951)
  • Black Nativity (1962) 
  • The Wiz (1975) 
  • Ain’t Misbehavin’ (1978)
  • DreamGirls (1981)
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