Footnotes: Book summary and reviews of Footnotes by Caseen Gaines

Footnotes

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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About this book

Book Summary

For readers of Hidden Figures and Something Wonderful, Footnotes is the story of New York in the roaring twenties and the very first Broadway show with an all-black cast and creative team to succeed―and the indelible mark on our popular culture.

These pioneering performer and the creators (composer Eubie Blake and lyricist Noble Sissle) sowed the seeds of the Harlem jazz scene and paved the way for people of color on stage and screen with West Side Story, Black Panther, and of course, Hamilton. Importantly, this book illuminates the ways in which black people in America have attained success amidst a culture actively whitewashing, controlling, or completely preventing their stories from being told.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Remarkable... Caseen Gaines, a top-notch researcher and first-rate storyteller, vividly brings a colorful era to life, telling an important story that deserves to be better known. It's a major contribution to culture and history." —Brian Jay Jones, New York Times bestselling author of Jim Henson: The Biography

"With meticulous research and smooth storytelling, Caseen Gaines significantly deepens our understanding of one of the key cultural events that launched the Harlem Renaissance. Footnotes reminds us of the many talented, but forgotten, Black actors and musicians whose innovative productions helped shape our shared culture and history." —A'Lelia Bundles, New York Times bestselling author of On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker

"Shuffle Along was the first of its kind when the piece arrived on Broadway. This musical introduced Black excellence to the Great White Way. Broadway was forever changed and we, who stand on the shoulders of our brilliant ancestors, are charged with the very often elusive task of carrying that torch into our present. I am humbled to have been part of the short-lived 2016 historical telling of how far we've come, starring as Aubrey Lyles in Shuffle Along, or, the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed—and happy that Footnotes further secures his place in history." —Billy Porter, Tony and Emmy Award-winning actor

"Think of history as a jigsaw puzzle. Caseen Gaines has unearthed one of those coveted, seemingly unremarkable pieces that suddenly turns a jumble of colors into a picture. A story of humans at once talented, flawed, courageous, blinkered, and visionary, Footnotes casts a valuable light on the role African Americans have played—and continue to play—in stage history."—Glen Berger, Emmy Award-winner and author of Song of Spider-Man: The Inside Story of the Most Controversial Musical in Broadway History

"What a gift! Footnotes is beautifully written, with Caseen Gaines telling a story that is absolutely vital to both the past and future of the theater." — Rachel Chavkin, Tony Award-winning director of Hadestown

This information about Footnotes shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

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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.

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.

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.

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

Engaging
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.

...7 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Caseen Gaines Author Biography

Caseen Gaines is an author, director, educator and pop culture historian. His books include We Don't Need Roads: The Making of the Back to the Future Trilogy and The Dark Crystal: The Ultimate Visual History.

Beyond his books, he has been published at Vanity Fair, io9, and New York Magazine — and has written original features for Rolling Stone, The A.V. Club, and Decider. He has also worked as a consultant and ghostwriter on several narrative nonfiction projects.

Gaines holds a Master's Degree from Rutgers University in American Studies, where he focused on racial representations in popular culture, and, in addition to writing, is co-Artistic Director of a nonprofit theater company he cofounded in 2005 and a high school English teacher in New Jersey, where he has taught for ...

... Full Biography
Author Interview
Link to Caseen Gaines's Website

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