Bill "Bojangles" Robinson

By: Robert Peterson

Biography

  • Bill "Bojangles" Robinson was an African-American tap dancer and was the most famous and highest paid of the twentieth century
  • Robinson was born in Richmond, VA
  • His parents were Maxwell and Maria Robinson, but they died when he was 8 years old so he was raised by his grandma
  • When he was young he would perform on the street for pennies
  • He was discovered by picaninny group where he performed with little black children
  • In 1891 he joined a traveling company, later performing as a vaudeville act, he achieved great success as a nightclub and musical-comedy performer
  • Robinson was married three times, his 1907 marriage to Lena Chase ended in 1922 he married his second wife, Fannie S. Clay, in 1922, Clay served as her husband's manager and assisted him in founding the Negro Actors Guild of America, which agitated for the rights of African-American performers, Clay and Robinson divorced in 194, in1944, he married Elaine Plaines. Robinson and Plaines were together until 1949

Dance

  • Robinson was a very talented and successful dancer most known for his work on Broadway
  • In 1928, he starred on Broadway in the hugely successful musical revue Blackbirds of 1928, which featured his famous "stair dance" Blackbirds was a revue starring African-American performers, intended for white audiences, the show was a breakthrough for Robinson
  • He became well known as "Bojangles," which connoted a cheerful and happy-go-lucky demeanor for his white fans, his catchphrase, "Everything's copacetic," reinforced this
  • Although he worked regularly as an actor, Robinson was best known for his tap-dance routines, he pioneered a new form of tap, shifting from a flat-footed style to a light, swinging style that focused on elegant footwork

Impact

  • Despite his fame, Robinson was not able to change out of the stereotypical roles written for black actors at the time, but by accepting these roles, Robinson was able to maintain steady employment and remain in the public eye
  • He was however able to break the two colored rule, which forbade solo black artist

Legacy

  • Bill "Bojangles" Robinson transformed the way people dance today especially tap dance and open the doors for many black actors and dancers today
  • They even made "National Tap Dance Day" which is May 25, his birthday
  • There is also a park named after him in Harlem because of the countless donations he often gave out
  • He died in 1949 at age 71
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Bill " Bojangles " ROBINSON " The Sand Dance " !!!