With the number of new Black Broadway shows that have opened in the past few years, like The Color Purple, there has been much written about the increase in Black attendance on Broadway. However, Blacks have been acting, writing, scoring and attending Broadway shows since the late 1800’s, so it’s not a new phenomenon. Here is a chronological history of the Great White Way in Black from 1896 – Present.
THE GOLD BUG (September 21, 1896)
Casion Theatre. Starred Bert Williams and Geoge Walker. The production introduced the Cake Walk. Dance music by Victor Herbert; Book and Lyrics by Glen MacDonough.
CLORINDY: THE ORIGIN OF THE CAKEWALK (June 28, 1898) Casino Theatre Roof Garden. First all Black written, Black performed show to play before White audiences. Music written by Will Marion Cook (1869-1944) Book and Lyrics by Paul Laurence Dunbar.
A TRIP TO COONTOWN (April 4, 1898)
Third Avenue Theatre. First Black musical to break from the minstrel pattern. First Black showto be organized, directed, performed, produced, and managed by Blacks. Music by Bob Cole.
IN DAHOMEY (February 18, 1903) New York Theatre for 53 performances. Broadway’s first Black musical in a major house. Starred Bert Williams and George Walker. Book by A.J. Skipp (Jesse Shipp). Lyrics by Paul Laurence Dunbar. Ran seven months in London at the Shaftesbruy Theatre (1903). Re-opened on Broadway (1904).
THE SHOO-FLY REGIMENT (1907) John Rosamond Johnson and Bob Cole.
THE RED MOON (1909) John Rosamond Johnson and Bob Cole. Billed as “A Sensation in Red and Black.”
THE POLICY PLAYERS (1900) Bert Williams and George Walker.
THE SONS OF HAM (1900) Williams and Walker.
IN DAHOMEY (1903) Williams and Walker. First all Black show to play a major Broadway theatre.
ABYSSINIA (1906) Williams and Walker.
BANDANNA LAND (1908) Williams and Walker.
SHUFFLE ALONG (May, 1921) 63rd Street Theatre. Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake.
PUT AND TAKE (1921) Irvin Miller, Spencer Williams, Tim Brymm and Perry Bradford.
STRUT MISS LIZZIE (June 19, 1922) Henry Creamer and Turner Layton.
PLANTATION REVUE (1922) Roy Turk and Russell Robinson.
OH JOY!(1922) J. Homer Tutt and Salem Tutt Whitney.
LIZA (1922) Irvin Miller (libretto).
HOW COME (1923) Eddie Hunter (libretto).
RUNNIN’ WILD (October 29, 1923) James P. Johnson and Cecil Mack (score). Flournoy Miller and Aubrey Lyles (libretto). Introduced “The Charleston”.
THE CHOCOLATE DANDIES (1924) Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake.
BLACKBIRDS OF 1926 Produced by Lew Leslie.
BOTTOMLAND (1927) Clarence Williams.
AFRICANA (1927) Harry Akst, Joe Howard and Donald Heywood (score).
RANG TANG (1927) Ford Dabney and Jo Trent (score). Flournoy Miller and Aubrey Lyles (libretto).
SHOWBOAT (1927) Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstien II.
KEEP SHUFFLIN’ (1928) Flournoy Miller and Aubrey Lyles (libretto).
BLACKBIRDS OF 1928 (May 9, 1928) Liberty Theatre. Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields (score). Lew Leslie (producer). The longest-running black musical of the 1920’s.
DEEP HARLEM (1929) Joe Jordan, Homer Tutt and Henry Creamer (score). Salem Whitney and Homer Tutt (libretto).
MESSIN’ AROUND (1929) James P. Johnson and Perry Bradford (score).
PANSY (1929) Maceo Pinkard (score).
HOT CHOCOLATES (1929) Thomas “Fats” Waller, Andy Razaf and Harry Brooks (score).
BAMBOOLA (1929) D. Frank Marcus and Bernard Maltin (libretto).
BLACKBIRDS OF 1930 Eubie Blake and Andy Razaf (score).
THE GREEN PASTURES (February 26, 1930) Marc Connelly. Play with music sung by the Hall Johnson Choir.
BROWN BUDDIES (1930)
RHAPSODY IN BLACK (1930) Mann Holiner and Alberta Nichols (score).
FAST AND FURIOUS (1931) Mack Gorden, Harry Revel and J. Rosamond Johnson.
SINGIN’ THE BLUES (1931) John McGowan (libretto). Jimmy McHugh and Dorothy Fields (score).
SUGAR HILL (1931) Flournoy Miller and Aubrey Lyles (libretto).
OL’ MAN SATAN (1932) Donald Heywood.
SHUFFLE ALONG OF 1933 (December 26, 1932) Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle (score). Flournoy Miller (libretto).
RUN LITTLE CHILLUN (March, 1933) Hall Johnson.
FOUR SAINTS IN THREE ACTS (February 20, 1934) Virgil Thomson and Gertrude Stein.
AFRICANA (1934) Donald Heywood. Billed as “A Congo Operetta”.
PORGY AND BESS (October 10, 1935) George and Ira Gershwin and DuBose Heyward. Based on DuBose and Dorothy Heyward’s 1924 play, PORGY.
SWING IT (1937) Eubie Blake, Cecil Mack and J. Milton Reddie.
HOT MIKADO (1939) Dave Greggory and William Tracy (lyricists). Based on Gilbert and Sullivan’s MIKADO.
SWINGIN’ THE DREAM (November, 1939) Jimmy VanHeusen and Eddia De Lange (score). Gilbert Seldes and Erik Charell (libretto).
CABIN IN THE SKY (1940) Vernon Duke, John Latouche and Lynn Root. First Black performed Broadway show to be filmed in Hollywood.
CARMEN JONES (1943) Oscar Hammerstein II. From Bizet’s CARMEN.
HOUSE OF FLOWERS (1945) Harold Arlen (score). Truman Capote (libretto).
CARIB SONG (1945) William Archibald and Baldwin Bergersen. Choreographed by Katherine Dunham.
ST. LOUIS WOMAN (1946) Starred Pearl Bailey. Harold Arlen (score). Arna Bontemps and Countee Cullen (libretto).
BEGGAR’S HOLIDAY (1946) Duke Ellington and John LaTouche (score).
LOST IN THE STARS (1949) Kurt Weill and Maxwell Anderson. Based on Alan Paton’s CRY, THE BELOVED COUNTRY.
THE BARRIER (November, 1950) Jan Meyerowitz (score). Langston Hughes (libretto). Operatic version of Hughes’s 1935 drama MULATTO.
SIMPLY HEAVENLY (1957) David Martin (score). Langston Hughes (libretto). Billed as “a comedy with music”.
BLACK NATIVITY (1961) Langston Hughes (with composer Jobe Huntley).
FLY BLACKBIRD (1962) James Hatch and Clarence Jackson.
TAMBOURINES TO GLORY (1963) Langston Hughes (with composer Jobe Huntley).
BALLAD FOR BIMSHIRE (1963) Irving Burgie and Loften Mitchell.
TRUMPETS OF THE LORD (December, 1963) Vinnette Carroll. Adapted from James Weldon Johnson’s GOD’S TROMBONES.
GOLDEN BOY (1964) William Gibson (libretto). Starred Sammy Davis, Jr.
HALLELUJAH, BABY (1967) Jule Styne, Betty Comden and Adolph Green (score). Arthur Laurents (libretto).
HELLO DOLLY (1968) Jerry Herman and Michael Stewart. “All-Negro Dolly” produced by David Merrick . Starred Pearl Bailey and Cab Calloway.
THE BELIEVERS (1968) Josephine Jackson and Joseph A. Walker.
BUCK WHITE (1969) Oscar Brown Jr.
PURLIE (1970) Gary Geld (score). Ossie Davis, Peter Udell and Philip Rose (libretto). Based on Davis’s 1961 play PURLIE VICTORIOUS.
AIN’T SUPPOSED TO DIE A NATURAL DEATH (1971) Melvin Van Peebles.
DON’T PLAY US CHEAP (1972) Melvin Van Peebles.
DON’T BOTHER ME, I CAN’T COPE (1972) Micki Grant. Directed by Vinnette Carroll of The Urban Arts Corps.
RAISIN (1973) Judd Woldin and Robert Britten (score). Lorraine Hansberry and Robert Nemiroff (libretto). Based on Lorraine Hansberry’s 1959 play A RAISIN IN THE SUN.
FOR COLORED GIRLS WHO HAVE CONSIDERED SUICIDE WHEN THE RAINBOW WAS NOT ENUF Stageplay by Ntozake Shange. Winner of the Obie Award.
THE WIZ (1975) Charlie Smalls (score). William F. Brown (libretto).
YOUR ARMS TOO SHORT TO BOX WITH GOD (1976) Alex Bradford and Micki Grant (score). Directed by Vinnette Carroll of The Urban Arts Corps.
AIN’T MISBEHAVIN'(May, 1978) Richard Maltby Jr. (arranger). Thomas “Fats” Waller revue.
EUBIE (1979) Eubie Blake revue.
ONE MO’ TIME (1979) Vernel Bagneris (libretto).
SOPHISTICATED LADIES (1981) Duke Ellington revue.
LENA HORNE: THE LADY AND HER MUSIC (1981) Starred Lena Horne.
DREAMGIRLS (1981) Henry Krieger (score). Tom Eyen (libretto).
MA RAINEY’S BLACK BOTTOM (1982) Set in Chicago. Play written by August Wilson.
JINTEY (1983) Play written by August Wilson.
WHOOPI GOLDBERG (1984) Starred Whoopi Goldberg.
JOE TURNER’S COME AND GONE (1984) Play written by August Wilson.
FENCES (1985) Pulitzer Prize winning play written by August Wilson. Starred James Earl Jones.
BLACK AND BLUE (1989) Musical revue.
THE PIANO LESSON (1989) Pulitzer Prize winning play written by August Wilson.
TWO TRAINS RUNNING (1990) Play written by August Wilson.
JELLY’S LAST JAM (1992) George C. Wolfe (libretto).
SEVEN GUITARS (1995) Play written by August Wilson.
HAVING OUR SAY (1995) Co-produced by Dr. Camille O. Crosby. Starred Mary Alice and Emily Mann.
BRING IN DA NOISE, BRING IN DA FUNK (1996) Anne Duquesnay, Zane Mark and Daryl Waters (score). Created by Savion Glover, Reg E. Gaines, and George C. Wolfe.
KING HEDLY (2001) Play written by August Wilson.
TOPDOG / UNDERDOG (2002) Starred Mos Def and Jeffery Wright. Written by Suzanne Lori Parks, the first Black woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
GEM OF THE OCEAN (2003) Play written by August Wilson.
A RAISIN IN THE SUN (2004) Starred Sean Combs, Audra McDonald, Phylicia Rashad and Sanaa Lathan.
RADIO GOLF (2005) Play written by August Wilson.
THE COLOR PURPLE (2005) Broadway Theatre. Presented by Oprah Winfrey. Starred Tony Award winning best actress in a musical, LaChanze.
JULIUS CAESAR (2005) Starred Denzel Washington.
ON GOLDEN POND (2005) Starred James Earl Jones and Leslie Uggams
CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF (2008) Starred Terence Howard, Anika Noni Rose, Phylicia Rashad and James Earl Jones.
THURGOOD (2008) Starred Laurence Fishburne.