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May 6, 1922
Guest post by Ariel Sumendap, undergraduate student at Manhattan College.
On May 6, 1922, one of the topics in The Dallas Express was titled “Serious Drama and the Negro,” and the article goes on to say that African Americans had the potential to become serious actors. One of the biggest Broadway hits was called “Shuffle Along” and it was produced by African Americans. Part of the play was a group of African American’s doing chants and dances that fascinated the audience. Since then, people believed that African Americans had the talent to become great actors. There had been a reputation for African Americans that they could only excel in acting such as mimicry and burlesque. Production houses never gave these talented African American actors bigger roles to prove their worth (click to view full article).
What fascinates me about the article is that it took them so long to realize the potential that the African-American actors had, but they never had the chance to show it to the public because of the racial issues. It is sad that racial status separated the opportunity that African Americans had from that of the white Americans. In that year most of the successful shows were actually produced by African-American production companies, and yet, that was only as far as they could go. Had they been given the chance to get the major roles on Broadway people could have seen performances by these African-Americans actors, and not only by mimicry or burlesque but an actual major role that people could appreciate and notice.
Even to this date, what differentiates African Americans to white Americans is that they don’t have the same opportunity. Even as years passed, almost a hundred years since this article was written, African American actors still doesn’t have the same chance to be the big role in any broadways or even movies. It still is very hard in the performance or movie business for them to be rewarded and noticed as great actors. We could see by the Oscars or Emmys that white Americans still dominates the awards.