camille f. forbes

STORYTELLER ~ HARVARD-TRAINED SCHOLAR ~ WRITER

"Dancing with 'Racial Feet': Bert Williams and the Performance of Blackness"

The article studies comedian Egbert (Bert) A. Williams (1874-1922). It focuses on his underexamined later years, analyzing the unique performative strategies through which he managed white and black audiences' expectations and strove for self-definition.

Extending beyond the concept of double consciousness, it considers William's onstage and offstage "performances" as resistant to the demands of both white and black audiences. Centering analysis on his performances in vaudeville and interviews with the white and black press, it asserts that Williams's acts were not a capitulation to the white community or a defection from the black commuity, but rather, nuanced acts of individualism.

Published in Theatre Journal 56.4 (December 2004): 603-625.

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