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Bojangles Chicken n' Biscuits and Dance

Chicken n' Biscuits and Dance and His Life Story
by

Meredith Williams

on 17 May 2011

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Transcript of Bojangles Chicken n' Biscuits and Dance

Bill "Bojangles" Robinson "Bojangles" was born Luther Robinson, right here in our hometown of Richmond, Virginia on May 25, 1878. His parents, Maria and Maxwell Robinson, died in 1885, just a few years later. Billy was reared by his grandmother, Bedilia Robinson, who had been a slave (Larkin). In Richmond, he got the nickname "Bojangles" from "jangler," meaning contentiousor argumentative. He even invented the phrase: "Everything's Copasetic," meaning tip-top. Later, he formed a club called "Copasetics Club" (Larkin). Works Cited "Bill Bojangles Robinson - Biographies." Term Papers, Book Reports, Research Papers and College Essays. 11 Dec. 2010. Web. 17 May 2011. <http://www.reviewessays.com/print/Bill-Bojangles-Robinson/21244.html>.

Cullen, Frank. "Vaudeville, Old and New." Google Books. Web. 11 May 2011. <http://books.google.com/books?id=XFnfnKg6BcAC>.

Hill, Constance. "TAP DANCE HALL OF FAME." American Tap Dance Foundation. American Tap Dance Foundation, 2002. Web. 10 May 2011. <http://www.atdf.org/awards/bojangles.html>.

Larkin, Colin. "Broadway: The American Musical . Stars Over Broadway . Bill "Bojangles" Robinson | PBS." PBS: Public Broadcasting Service. ENCYCLOPEDIA OF POPULAR MUSIC, 2004. Web. 10 May 2011. . Robinson was very professional on stage, but he gambled and had a quick temper and always carried a gold-plated revolver. Bojangles was charged with assault in 1915 and it split the act (Larkin). Afterwards, Robinson launched his own solo career, becoming one of the few African-Americans to headline at New York's prestigious Palace Theatre. Robinson's Stair Dance, introduced in 1918, was distinguished by its showmanship and sound, each step emitting a different pitch and rhythm (Larkin). In 1922, he married Fannie Clay who became his business manager, secretary, and partner in efforts to fight the barriers of racial prejudice. Other films include Hooray For Love (1935), In Old Kentucky (1935), The Big Broadcast of 1936 (1935), One Mile From Heaven (1937), By An Old Southern River (1941), Let's Shuffle (1941) and Stormy Weather (1943). Stormy Weather (1943) featured Robinson, Lena Horne, Cab Calloway and Katherine Dunham and her dance troupe (Larkin). He got his first professional job in 1892, performing as a member of the pickaninny chorus for Mayme Remington with "The South Before the War". But his goal as a child was to be a famous jockey, a more lucrative profession than a singer and dancer. However, that ambition was not sucessful. Robinson traveled to New York in 1900, and challenged the "In Old Kentucky" star tap dancer Harry Swinton to a Buck-dancing contest. He incontrovertibly beat Swinton and started gaining a reputation in NYC (Larkin). A founding member of the Negro Actors Guild of America, Robinson was also named "Mayor of Harlem" in 1933. Hailed as "The Dark Cloud of Joy" he performed in vaudeville from 1914-1927, full time (Larkin). Broadway fame came with the all-black revue, Blackbirds of 1928, in which he sang and danced "Doin' the New Low Down." Success was instantaneous (Larkin). He was hailed as the greatest of all dancers by at least seven New York newspapers. Blackbirds of 1933, All in Fun (1940) and Memphis Bound (1945) followed in suit. The Hot Mikado (1939) marked Robinson's sixty-first birthday, which he celebrated by dancing down Broadway, one block for each year. Thats sixty one blocks (Larkin). Robinson turned to Hollywood films in the thirties, a venue previoulsy restricted to blacks. His first film, Dixiana (1930) had a predominantly white cast; Harlem is Heaven (1933) was the first all-black film ever made (Larkin). Robinson and Shirley Temple teamed up in The Little Colonel (1935), The Littlest Rebel (1935), Just Around the Corner (1938) and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1938), in which he taught the child superstar to tap dance. Claiming to have taught tap dance to Eleanor Powell, Florence Mills, and Fred Astaire, Robinson profoundly influenced the younger tap dancers at the Hoofers Club in Harlem, where he also could be found gambling and shooting pool. Throughout his lifetime, he was a member of many clubs and civic organizations and an honorary member of police departments in cities across the United States. His participation in benefits is legendary and it is estimated that he gave away well over one million dollars in loans and charities. "To his own people, Robinson became a modern John Henry, who instead of driving steel, laid down iron taps," wrote Marshall Stearns. When Robinson died in 1949, newspapers claimed that almost one hundred thousand people turned out to witness the passing of the funeral procession. The founding of the Copasetics Club insured that his excellence would not be forgotten (Larkin). Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, the most famous of all African American tap dancers in the twentieth century, claimed he could run backward faster than most men could go forward. He revolutionized tap dance by bringing it up to a whole new level. His light and exacting footwork brought tap “up on its toes” from an earlier flat-footed shuffling style, and developed the art of tap dancing to a delicate perfection (Larkin). From 1902-1914, he teamed with George W. Cooper. The "two-colored" rule in vaudeville, restricted blacks to performing in pairs. Yet they did not conform to the usual practice of wearing blackface makeup on stage (Larkin).
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