Footnotes: The Black Artists Who Rewrote the Rules of the Great White Way
The triumphant story of how an all-Black Broadway cast and crew changed musical theatre--and the world--forever.
"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."--Billy Porter, Tony, Grammy, and Emmy Award-winning actor
If Hamilton, Rent, or West Side Story captured your heart, you'll love this in-depth look into the rise of the 1921 Broadway hit, Shuffle Along, the first all-Black musical to succeed on Broadway. No one was sure if America was ready for a show featuring nuanced, thoughtful portrayals of Black characters--and the potential fallout was terrifying. But from the first jazzy, syncopated beats of composers Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake, New York audiences fell head over heels.
Footnotes is the story of how Sissle and Blake, along with comedians Flournoy Miller and Aubrey Lyles, overcame poverty, racism, and violence to harness the energy of the Harlem Renaissance and produce a runaway Broadway hit that launched the careers of many of the twentieth century's most beloved Black performers. Born in the shadow of slavery and establishing their careers at a time of increasing demands for racial justice and representation for people of color, they broke down innumerable barriers between Black and white communities at a crucial point in our history.
Author and pop culture expert Caseen Gaines leads readers through the glitz and glamour of New York City during the Roaring Twenties to reveal the revolutionary impact one show had on generations of Americans, and how its legacy continues to resonate today.
Praise for Footnotes:
"A major contribution to culture."--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."--A Lelia Bundles, New York Times bestselling author of On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker
"Absorbing..."--The Wall Street Journal
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About the Author
Author and journalist Caseen Gaines has written for Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, and NY Mag. He holds an MA from Rutgers Uni in American Studies, focusing on racial representations in popular culture.
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 - A'Lelia Bundles, New York Times bestselling author of On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker
The remarkable story of the 1921 trailblazing, all-Black musical, Shuffle Along, is explored in this well-researched and engrossing new book by pop-culture historian Gaines...through a well-paced and compelling narrative style, Gaines pays homage to the show that augured a new era for artists of color on Broadway.
Through a well-paced and compelling narrative style, Gaines pays homage to the show that augured a new era for artists of color on Broadway...evocative and illuminating, Footnotes is an excellent addition to the canon of musical theater history. - Booklist
Gaines offers an animated, well-researched history of the creation, production, and long afterlife of Shuffle Along... A spirited, educative contribution to both theater history and Black history. - Kirkus Reviews - Kirkus Reviews
In Gaines's hands, the artists come to life as groundbreakers--and later civil rights advocates (Sissle was president of the Negro Actors Guild in 1935)--who paved the way for artists to come. This vibrant history is well worth checking out. - Publishers Weekly - Publishers Weekly
In this well-researched compilation of behind-the-scenes stories and background, pop culture historian Gaines (Inside Pee-Wee's Playhouse) celebrates the 100th anniversary of the original staging of the all-Black musical comedy Shuffle Along... Gaines persuasively argues that these four men shouldn't be relegated to the footnotes of history, as their work resulted in monumental gains for many Black performers. Theater buffs and students of Black history will be pleased by this cogent defense of Shuffle Along. - Library Journal - Library Journal
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, Grammy, and Emmy Award-winning actor - Billy Porter, Tony, Grammy, 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. In taking us through the story of Shuffle Along, Gaines brings the years surrounding the First World War to life, making a convincing case that the Roaring Twenties would have roared less loudly if it hadn't been for this once-celebrated, now-forgotten show. 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 - 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 - Rachel Chavkin, Tony Award-winning director of Hadestown
Florence Mills, Gertrude Saunders, Lottie Gee, Josephine Baker--these are just a few of the women's shoulders on which I stand. Before joining George C. Wolfe's Black Broadway Justice League in Shuffle Along, or, the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed, I knew nothing of Shuffle Along, its creators, nor the scope of the immaculate talent that ascended from its company. Shuffle Along will always be another example of rich history within the Black community, more specifically the Black artistic community, that is so often lost, erased, and forgotten. Learning about this show and performing in the 2016 Broadway production was life changing in more ways than one. More importantly, it affirmed the responsibility to not only discover the treasures, work, and history of our ancestors, but to also shed light on such treasures and remind the world of the excellence and greatness of our people. For there is no 'we' without 'them.' - Adrienne Warren, Tony Award nominee - Adrienne Warren, Tony Award nominee