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Turn of the Century African-American Musical Theatre

At the turn of the century, and up until about 1910, the African-American musical stage had its first great heyday. Composers, writers, and performers banded together to write, stage, and perform in musical plays for a mainstream audience. Bert Williams, perhaps the best-remembered of all this notable group, went on to become the first African-American star of the Ziegfeld Follies. In 1903, with his partner George Walker, he presented In Dahomey, the first full-length African American musical. Bob Cole and J. Rosamond Johnson, and Will Marion Cook and Paul Laurence Dunbar also contributed to this lively and ground-breaking period in musical theatre history.

Johnson, J. Rosamund. As Long as the World Goes Round.
"Song successes from Cole & Johnson's musical Production The Red Moon".
New York: Jerome H. Remick & Co., 1909.
Sheet Music Collection



Williams, Bert. Nobody. Words by Alex Rogers.
New York: Attucks Music Pub. Co., 1905.
"Nobody" became Williams' signature song;
it was introduced in the African-American
musical play Abyssinia.

Sheet Music Collection








Williams, Bert. He's Up Against the Real Thing Now. Words by Edward Furber.
New York: Joseph W. Stern & Co., 1898.
Sheet Music Collection
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