In honor of Black History Month we at Reel Reality will bring light to the history of black cinema.
Bert Williams was a pioneer in his own way becoming the first African American to produce, write, direct and act in a film. Williams career started in 1892 performing in music halls in San Francisco.
A year later, in 1893, Williams joined Martin and Selig’s Mastodon Minstrel Show where he teamed up with George W. Walker. Billing themselves as “Two Real Coons,” they become one of the most successful comedy teams of their era. The men continued to break barriers by producing, writing and starting in “In Dahomey,” the first African American musical comedy to open on Broadway. The show even toured overseas in numerous theaters in Scotland and England, and in the garden of Buckingham Palace. After Walker’s death in 1908, Williams joined the famous Ziegfied Follies.
As a single act, Williams was the first African American man to become a comedic star on Broadway, even becoming the first black actor featured in a Broadway revue, first black actor to join Actor’s Equity and the first black comedian to appear in a cinema (Darktown Jubilee, 1914).
Bert Williams was a true pioneer. A man trapped in degrading roles because of racial stereotypes and prejudice he continued to prevail and change the entertainment industry. The color of his skin limited his professional achievements but his talent was unmeasurable. Thank you Bert Williams for your sacrifices and dedication to the art of entertainment.
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