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Fri, 08.25.1876

Bert Williams, actor, comedian, and composer

Bert Williams

This date remembers Bert Williams, born in 1876. Williams was a Black comedian who portrayed the slow-witted, shuffling Black characters that was then a standard role in vaudeville.

He was born in New Providence, Bahamas. Williams went to California with his family when he was a child. Later he worked in the mining and lumber camps of the West.

In 1895, he and George W. Walker became a comedy team, one of the most successful comedy teams of their era. Within a year they were appearing in New York City, where their song "Good Morning, Carrie" became famous. In 1903 the partnership had graduated to full-scale musical comedy.  The all-Black show "In Dahomey" was a Broadway success. The cast played a command performance at Buckingham Palace in London the next year. Other successes followed, notably "Abyssinia" (1906), "Bandanna Land" (1908), and "Mr. Lode of Koal" (1909).

Walker died in 1909, and Williams became a regular comic in the shows of Florenz Ziegfeld, starring in the Follies from 1910 through 1919 and writing much of his own material. Of his many musical compositions, "Nobody" (1905), with its wry, fatalistic lyrics, is probably the best example of his work.

Bert Williams died March 4, 1922 in New York City.

American Legacy Magazine
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