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The Black Artists Who Rewrote the Rules of the Great White Way

by Caseen Gaines

Footnotes by Caseen Gaines X
Footnotes by Caseen Gaines
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  • Ariel F. (Madison, WI)
    A history not well known!
    Footnote is the fascinating story of black theatre between 1885-1925. It details the stories of Noble Sissle, Eubie Blake, Flournoy Miller and Audrey Lyles and the trials and tribulations they encountered. These 4 were the writers of the music and lyrics for the musical," Shuffle Along". It was the first black written musical produced on Broadway.
    I learned much about the lives and struggled of black performers in the '20s. I had no knowledge about the history of "Shuffle Along".
    I feel this would be a good book for book clubs and especially those who are dealing social justice
  • Suzette Pierson
    Shuffle Along to the Bookstore and Buy This Book
    The extent of my knowledge about the history of Broadway is very limited so "Footnotes: The Black Artists Who Rewrote the Rules of the Great White Way" by Caseen Gaines is a revelation. Narrowly, this is the story of “Shuffle Along”, the first all-Black musical to succeed wildly on Broadway in 1921, but Gaines uses the story of the production to journey through history and discuss the pernicious racism in the United States, the service of Black soldiers and musicians in France during World War I, the Harlem Renaissance, and the lives of the performers, musicians, and creators who participated in or had an effect on the musical. Gaines starts his story at the 1921 opening night premier of the musical, with the team of four incredibly talented men, Noble Sissle, Eubie Blake, Flournoy Miller and Aubrey Lyles, anxiously waiting to see if white audiences would embrace the musical or start a race war after realizing it broke social taboos. He then travels back to the origins of the collaboration and takes the reader on a rollicking journey of success and heartbreak through the years. While I was familiar with Josephine Baker, Al Jolson, and Langston Hughes, and had heard of Eubie Blake and Paul Robeson, I was unfamiliar with many of the artists and was riveted by their stories, especially James Reese Europe, bandleader extraordinaire who was killed by a crazed drummer, and Florence Mills, beloved comedian, singer, and dancer whose career was launched by “Shuffle Along”. While reading, I was so interested that I found myself searching Google to look for clips of performances by the people discussed by Gaines, and to seek additional information about events or individuals that Gaines could only touch on peripherally. This is a well-researched and well- written history – highly recommended.
  • Lee M. (Wentzville, MO)
    Bright Lights
    Great care and attention to detail has gone into this compilation of a defining part of Broadway. Many people think Hamilton was one of the first all Black forays, or at least one of the most important, which tends to nullify the other serious contributions that paved the way. How the duos of Noble Sissle with Eubie Blake and Flournoy Miller with Aubrey Lyles managed to write and act in the dazzling all Black musical, "Shuffle Along," needs to be recognized. I believe "Footnotes" will pave the way and acknowledge all of the stars and contributors to the Great White Way. I understand it would be impossible to see the original "Shuffle Along" as there was no written script, imagine what improvising that must have been, but many theatre lovers would love to see what has survived.
  • Amy E. (Delaware, OH)
    Eubie Blake and who?
    From 1921 to 2015 SHUFFLE ALONG made appearances on Broadway and yet I had not heard of the play. I have attended performances of Broadway musicals and played in the pit for many amateur performances, but had never questioned who the predecessors of the Gershwins, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Sondheim, etc. were. In his book, Mr. Gaines fills in the blanks with a large chunk of Black History related to the history of Broadway and it's performers.
    I liked the book very much as the author made the entertainers real people. The history was there, but it was not just a history lesson.
    As a fan of Broadway musicals, I found this book a revelation and highly recommend it.
  • Melanie B. (Desoto, TX)
    Excellent History of Black Artists on Broadway
    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and even followed up with references mentioned in the notes section because I was curious to know more about Noble Sissle, Eubie Blake and the original cast of Shuffle Along. The author provided exceptional detail in an interesting, easy to read style. I highly recommend this book to show business fans and those who want to know more about the Black theater experience.
  • Deb
    Footnotes appealed to me in that I love narrative non fiction titles. Without much of a music background, I wasn't sure if I would enjoy this title as much I have so many others. Footnotes surely did not disappoint. Following the careers of four black musicians as they broke through the racial barriers on Broadway was a heartbreaking and yet uplifting read.
    I would highly recommend it to those who enjoy reading engaging history and to those who wish to examine racial injustice and the impact it had on developing musical careers. I believe it would add some lively conversation to book clubs as well as those studying music. This deserves a spot on your non-fiction shelf.
  • Scott M. (Columbia, MD)
    Footnotes, or how Shuffle Along broke the color barrier of the Great White Way
    Written on the centennial anniversary of the premiere of the musical Shuffle Along, this book describes the back story of the men behind the creation of Shuffle Along, how the musical came to revolutionize Broadway and changed the way that audiences viewed African American entertainers and productions.

    Throughout this engaging and informative tale, the reader will come to learn about more than just the popular musical. The reader will learn about the start of Jim Crow and its impact on American entertainment during the height of the vaudeville era. This would play a significant role in how Shuffle Along broke the mold in the portrayal of African Americans, showing that they could be more than racial caricatures. The main creators were influenced by stars from vaudeville legend Al Jolson to the legendary Harlem Hellfighter leader James Europe. They, in turn, influenced stars from Jack Benny to Josephine Baker.

    Whether you are just an entertainment fan or a student of history, this work will be well worth your time to read.
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