two real coons

Diaspora Lens: Bert Williams

Photo: Cabinet card image of American minstrel performer Bert Williams (1874-1922). TCS 1.1120, Harvard Theatre Collection, Harvard University, 1922, Houghton Library at Harvard University.

One of the most famous blackface entertainers was Caribbean American comedian and Broadway star Bert Williams (1874-1922). Williams toured with a minstrel troupe before teaming up with vaudeville artist George Walker in 1893. In their stage shows, Williams and Walker played on minstrel stereotypes, slyly billing themselves as “two real coons.” A master of comic timing and verbal wit, Williams wore his “shiftless darkey” disguise both to accommodate and challenge the racial prejudices of his day. 

Explore recordings of Bert Williams’s shows: s.si.edu/2qJdEKc #DiasporaLens #APeoplesJourney