Caseen GainesAug 31, 2021
The Black Artists Who Rewrote the Rules of the Great White Way
Caseen Gaines' Footnotes: The Black Artists Who Rewrote the Rules of the Great White Way (Sourcebooks, 2021) is a rollicking, entertaining, and fascinating cultural history of the 1921 Broadway musical Shuffle Along. Created by Black writers and composers and performed by an all-Black cast, Shuffle Along was one of the early cultural milestones of the Harlem Renaissance, not least because it launched the career of Josephine Baker. While it was beloved in its time, the humor of Shuffle Along came to be seen as offensive in subsequent decades, and it has not been staged in its original form since it closed almost 100 years ago. Gaines makes a compelling case for Shuffle Along's place in the American musical theatre canon as a flawed but inspired work of Black creativity.