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TheGrio celebrates Bert Williams, the first African-American to obtain a lead role on Broadway in “Keeping Black History Alive.”
Bert Williams was born in the Bahamas. At a young age, he immigrated with his parents to the United States. By his late teens, he made his way to California and joined different West Coast minstrel shows. He would later create a successful vaudeville act in 1893 with George Walker. By 1903 he was starring in “In Dahomey,” the first all-Black musical comedy to play in a Broadway theater. In 1910, Williams landed a role as one of the headliners in Ziegfeld Follies, making him the first Black man to perform on Broadway as an equal to his white costars.
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