The Black Face in Musical Theater

How Did Black Musicals Come About?


Musical theater was not always an opportunity available to African American people. Musical theater was mostly known for its white actresses, and if the play needed black actors, Blackface was used. It wasn’t until 1898 when Will Marion Cook and Bob Cole introduced black written pieces to the Theater community.  This “second hand” vision of Europeans playing African Americans was no longer noticed as African Americans began to play in plays and also write their own plays.


The first play exclusively black performed play was “ Clorindy”, which was a New York City. The purpose of the start of black performed and black written plays was to neglect the idea that European people painted of Black people, and for Black people to project a style and image of their own.


Some famous Black Musicals are “The Wiz”, “Dreamgirls”,” Ain’t Misbehavin”, “Playbill”, “Cabin in the Sky”, and “Raisin in the Sun”.

Enjoy this clip of the Wiz!

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