Fred Astaire performing “Bojangles in Harlem” number, where he dressed like a blackface minstrel and danced with his shadows to pay homage to Bill “Bojangles” Robinson.
In honor of Mr. Davis’s birthday, I present this comparison that I have been pondering since I stumbled across this image of Davis (top) on the web. Mr. Davis performing Mr. Bojangles here is an intriguing counterpoint to my discussion of Fred Astaire’s “Bojangles in Harlem” number in Swing Time (1936). [Props to Elizabeth Abel’s “Shadows” essay in Representations, of course] Davis’ adoption of Mr. Bojangles as signature song speaks back to Astaire’s racial masquerade/homage to Bill Robinson in forceful ways that I don’t yet know if I will include in my book. To be continued, perhaps…
I am an art historian specializing in early twentieth century American art with particular focus on the history of photography, race and representation, and transatlantic modernist networks. I earned my PhD at Yale University in the History of Art Department.
Besides my leadership role as the Founding Co-Director of the Association for Critical Race Art History (ACRAH), I am recognized for my expertise on African American Art, particularly African American Photography, and as a seasoned consultant for exhibitions, museum collections, and symposia/lectures planning.
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