Bert Williams Essay

1062 Words5 Pages
Camille F. Forbes has analyzed an important African American in Dancing With “Racial Feet”: Bert Williams and the Performance of Blackness. Forbes examines and analyzes Williams’ performative strategies to satisfy both black and white audiences and the interventions; both on and off stage that he incorporated. The author recounts the career of Williams and the career moves that he made in her analysis, plus Forbes pays particular attention to the expectations of audiences and how Bert Williams used his stage presence to satisfy them. “He has done more for our race than I have. He has smiled his way into people’s hearts; I have been obliged to fight my way.” Booker T. Washington made this powerful statement about one of the most controversial African Americans in history, Edgar “Bert” Williams. Bert Williams is an incredibly influential person in the history of acting. Many people may disagree with this statement. Instead of viewing Bert as influential, they might see him as controversial. Both Williams’ use of black stereotypes and participation in the “blackface” type of acting were considered negative and racist ways of portraying black people during this time period. He charmed his way past barriers that blacks had not been able to overcome, with a smile and comical attitude. Williams opened the door for black actors of his generation as well as for generations to come, in the film and stage industry. During this time, blacks were portrayed as “coons”, a stereotypical depiction what a “negro” was at this time: lazy, dishonest, and corrupt. “Blackface” actors represented the blacks as whites wanted to see them. Whites wanted to see blacks exposed as buffoons for entertainment because it helped them feel they were the more powerful race allowing them to maintain their perceived superiority. To overcome the hurdle of being even associated with
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