“Tap Dancing on the Racial Boundary”:
Racial Representation and Artistic Experimentation
in Bill “Bojangles” Robinson’s Stormy Weather Performance
In a key scene in 1943 Hollywood musical Stormy Weather, African American tap dancer Bill “Bojangles” Robinson brings the many contradictions of his film image into striking synthesis. Having been cast as a background drummer in an erotic pseudo-African stage production, in which scantily-clad performers chase one another and sing “how can there be a Virgin Isle…?”, his character launches into an impromptu tap dance across the stage’s giant drum cylinders, wresting the audience’s attention from the lead performer and dictating the scene through tap steps that viewers familiar with Robinson’s image would immediately recognise as his own. In this scene, therefore, he is visually tied to white fantasies of an exotic black “other”; however, he is simultaneously directing his own bodily display and taking control of the performance through a dance that is as self-assertive as it is self-referential. He is at once the visual embodiment of a dehumanising cultural representation of “blackness” – the innately rhythmic, highly sexualised jungle “primitive” – yet he is also playing on and reworking this stereotype to conduct a very personal physical display.
This essay examines Robinson’s dance scenes in Stormy Weather to explore their interplay between popular cultural imagery and self-representation, and to show how they facilitate a multitude of potential readings. It will outline how interpretations of Robinson are complicated irrevocably by a conflict between popular cultural depictions of “blackness” linked to distorting notions of racial identity versus the creative licence that the film facilitates. I contend that Robinson is an exemplar of a host of representational paradoxes that are present in this film, and will highlight his position as a slippery and multifaceted cultural signifier. Ultimately, I will reveal that Robinson’s performances can be read as self-defining artistic conceits that are subtly subversive whilst also capable of upholding a reassuringly separate racial framework for a segregated society as yet unwilling to accept African Americans as cultural equals.
Robinson was one of America’s first black screen stars; his Hollywood roles represent rare chances to see African American performances in 1930s and 1940s mainstream films. He was the most frequent onscreen partner of the Depression era’s best-known star, Shirley Temple, and his funeral in 1949 was the largest New York had ever seen (Haskins and Mitgang 25). Yet, like those of his African American contemporaries, his performances were generally restricted to subservient characterisations or segregated from white stars. Nevertheless, they also represent the expression of an individual and ultimately self-referential bodily display enacted through dance. I will investigate this paradox in Robinson’s screen image, namely its apparent adherence to one-dimensional stereotypes, and its coincident danced moments of artistic self-determination. My argument is that Robinson embodies a dialectical interplay of cultural imagery that facilitates complex – even contradictory – interpretations.
Stormy Weather provided Robinson with his only leading role in Hollywood. In a thinly veiled homage to his own stardom – his character’s name is Bill Williamson – he plays a rising theatre star caught in an interwar romance with singer Selina Rogers, played by African American singer and actress Lena Horne. Both the product of National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) lobbying for more positive African American roles in Hollywood, and a Second World War propaganda device aimed at promoting feelings of national identification amongst black cinema audiences, Stormy Weather functions as a rare cinematic platform for the talents of leading African American performers of the age, including scat singer Cab Calloway and acrobatic tap duo the Nicholas Brothers.
Although the film provides black actors with major cinematic roles and is set in a credibly modern urban environment – a decisive break from the romanticised rural depictions of black life seen in similar films of the period – it is in other ways a typically utopian Classical Hollywood depiction of African American experience. African Americans had little input in the production off-screen – the director, Andrew L. Stone, and his production team were all white – and, reflecting the segregated America of its time, white performers are never seen and white society’s impact on the film’s characters is never mentioned. Nevertheless, whilst the result is a Hollywood studio construction of performers such as Robinson that is bound up in dehumanising representations of “blackness,” Robinson’s tap performances also express an autonomous creativity and self-reflexive artistry, enabling him to literally “dance” within this racially subjugating and demeaning framework.
Many of Robinson’s representational paradoxes are played out through his performance’s engagement with minstrel iconography. Minstrelsy, a term historically tied to a nineteenth- and early twentieth-century theatrical tradition of white actors blackening their faces to mimic African American culture, is particularly relevant to Robinson’s screen image because its legacy reached into sound-era Hollywood.  Robinson’s own image was famously reduced to blackface by fellow dancer Fred Astaire in his “Bojangles of Harlem” number from 1936 musical Swing Time. Through this practice, African Americans were dehumanised, their customs caricatured and eroticised for amusement and profit by a commodifying culture. The enduring legacy of this “grinning black mask” is explicitly present in Stormy Weather. Comedy duo Flournoy Miller and Johnny Lee perform in blackface, whilst one of Williamson’s first dance scenes is a cakewalk number that begins by showcasing an array of crude blackface masks. These masks quickly disappear to reveal a group of light-skinned female dancers, thus negating – perhaps deliberately – the image of “blackness” that they have produced, but they point to the enduring presence of blackface in the American popular consciousness, and through their shared performance space with Williamson, link Robinson to this straitening, dehumanising cultural icon.
Extensive studies, however, notably by Eric Lott and W. T. Lhamon, Jr., have re-evaluated monolithic readings of minstrelsy, positioning it instead as an important zone of representational conflict. Lott suggests that it was “based on small but significant crimes against settled ideas of racial demarcation” (4), and caught between a concurrent “fear” of and “fascination” with the black “other” (25), two readings that hint at minstrelsy’s unsettled cultural status. Lhamon seeks to “analyze the multiple aspects in blackface performance” because, he suggests, “it was not a fixed thing, but slippery in its uses and effects” (5). He argues that,
[c]ultural work never produces a clean before-and-after situation of replaced categories, as in “man” for “thing.” Rather, it gives a ratio in which categories slide over and among each other, obscuring and peeking through their counterparts […] Culture transmits codes that are complex. People decode them differently” (141).
Moreover, Watkins argues that demeaning and minstrelsy-derived cinematic representations of African Americans before the mid-twentieth century were complicated by black performers’ use of subversive “play,” which he terms “[s]hrewd humility” (262), that is, covert subterfuge or rebellion. This observation connects performances such as Robinson’s to “signifying,” a traditional African American survival technique of indirection and satire. Watkins quotes Sigmund Freud’s notion of “misleading naïveté,” the act of representing oneself “as naïve, so as to enjoy the liberty that […] would not otherwise be granted” (33), to suggest that African American performers up to the mid-twentieth century signified on their stereotypical roles to achieve individual empowerment.
Consequently, this essay will reveal Robinson’s cultural image to be the product of a range of competing cultural forces, not least individual dance, a dehumanising but ultimately conflicting cultural framework with roots in minstrelsy, and also a recurring African American survival technique: self-referential “play” and improvisation within the minstrel image. My argument is that the concept of the stereotype is a limiting framework through which to analyse film images, and individual performances deserve deeper investigation.
Robinson’s first major dance scene in Stormy Weather is initially readable as a potent symbol of dehumanising minstrel imagery. First, it upholds minstrel caricatures by positioning its performers as peculiar racial spectacles. Here, Williamson is on a steamboat, dressed in rags, and dancing with a travelling show that is referred to as a group of “minstrel boys,” whilst much of the scene is presented as freakish spectacle. One performer transforms himself into a physical grotesque by shaking his face to rattle his teeth, and another engages in throaty scat singing, which, to observers ignorant of this art form, might seem eccentric and crude.
There is also an inherent reference to innate musicality in this scene that feeds into minstrelsy-derived notions of African Americans as mindless song and dance performers. Malone argues that “Hollywood’s tap dance sequences were usually staged in a way that made this difficult art form appear to be nothing more than spontaneous outbursts erupting from one’s nature instead of one’s culture” (115), thus supporting racist notions of “black” impulsivity. And as Dyer observes of this scene,
when Bill […] drops down on a cotton bale at the end of a day spent working […] the moment he hears the rhythm of a band off-screen, he taps off to join it and throws himself into an energetic routine […] What such presentations of Black musicality […] imply is a perception of musical expressivity as an emanation of the Black personality, a given of the Black psyche [emphasis added] (“Is Car Wash a Musical?” 98).
As Dyer notes, therefore, Williamson literally “taps” off to join the performers, playing into minstrelsy-derived notions of spontaneity. He also envelops himself in the music by clapping throughout the scene, suggesting that the beat is part of his subconscious. Moreover, his companions’ seamless integration into one another’s art – they push each other out of the way to perform without ever missing the beat – ends with a seemingly spontaneous synchronised jumping performance by Williamson and the group that positions their movements as a collective “emanation” of their consciousnesses. By engaging in an apparently impromptu performance, Williamson’s artistic talents can therefore be perceived as innate, demeaning his dance as “mindless” and positioning him as uninhibited and therefore a minstrel-like – and consequently dehumanised – spectacle.
Further scrutiny of this scene, however, reveals an interesting juxtaposition between dehumanising objectification and creative agency that helps to explain the manifold readings of Robinson’s image. Not only does the use of scat singing emphasise the scene’s reliance on African American art forms, revealing, despite its white production framework, a platform for black creativity, but the scene also provides Williamson with a striking opportunity to contradict the “natural” performer stereotype by verbally negating his apparent spontaneity. When he takes his turn to dance, his movements provoke the response, “boy, you got educated feet.” He replies, “I practice all the time,” before describing his performance as something he’s been “sat up all night trying to do.” The audience is therefore referred to the dance number’s practiced status, and consequently its careful crafting. The term “educated feet” is itself inherently ambiguous. It could be read as a separation of body from mind, a reinforcement of Williamson as an innately rhythmic performer. Conversely, it suggests that Williamson is an “educated” and thus cerebral dancer whose stylistic practice is highly self-conscious and carefully rehearsed.
Signifying can therefore be inferred as a facet of Robinson’s performance. Roger D. Abrahams defines signifying as “a technique of indirect argument or persuasion,” using “verbal or gestural means [my emphasis]” (see Gates Jr. 75) and Williamson’s posturing as he taps is at once comic and anarchic – he adopts a posture of pseudo-grandeur by placing his hands on his hips and strutting when he pretends to “go to Beale Street,” that is, to live the high life by achieving fame as a dancer on the Memphis blues circuit. By physically strutting, arching his body into stiff angularities and exaggerated postures, he turns his image into a conceited gait that emphasises the carefully crafted nature of his bodily display and signifies on the stiff formality of a grander society in order to mock it. This anarchism is as containable as it is subversive, however, and can just as easily be read as self-deprecating clown-like exaggeration, positioning Robinson himself as the subject of amusement. Thus, the scene creates juxtaposing interpretations: it can be read as a self-deprecatory and jovial performance scene – a regression to minstrel buffoonery – or as a subversive critique of a socially superior, and perhaps implicitly white, society.
This relationship between stereotype and creative play on the self-image is rendered even more ambiguous in Robinson’s next performance. This scene – the “drum dance” referred to at the start of this essay – shows Robinson engaging with yet another debasement of black culture – primitivism – whilst simultaneously utilising this image to act out his well-known stage routine. Primitivism, a term that gained currency in Europe and North America at the turn of the twentieth century, represented a fascination with non-European cultures based on the belief that they were intimately linked to nature and hence enjoyed a close relationship to subconscious impulse, childish innocence and sexuality. It is worth noting here that the then chief secretary of the NAACP, Walter White, condemned Stormy Weather for its recourse to this stereotype, concluding that, where sexuality was concerned, the film depicted African Americans as “primitive barbarians who never stop short of extremes” (cited in Koppes and Black 398). Yet there is a paradox between the primitivist mindset and Robinson the performer in this scene that hints at a film performance that challenges this cultural stereotype even as it adheres to it.
The drum dance, the longest and most technical of Williamson’s dance scenes, is striking for the visual creativity it enables Robinson to employ. Most notably, it replaces notions of crude and comic physicality and artlessness with light-footed artistry and exceptional bodily control. It is a form of subversion, therefore, which, whilst remaining within the realm of primitive iconography, reconfigures primitivist and minstrel-based conceptions of black masculinity. First, it achieves its power through creative wit: by re-crafting and individualising a primitive performance, Williamson is able to signify on primitivism’s denial of intelligent expression and reduce this mindset to ridicule.
Further, although Williamson utilises physical strength in the next scene to challenge the social status quo for a second time, punching his manager to the floor to assert his professional independence and stake a territorial claim as Selina’s love interest, he achieves a more public – and therefore much more potent – social subversion here, not through superior strength but through seminal self-control. His tap dance is at once balanced and elegant, and moreover, extremely precise. He performs to a sung version of Langston Hughes’s “Danse Africaine,” whose poetry is utilised for its sexual suggestiveness – Williamson dances to the “low beating of the tom tom,” which “stirs your blood” – but he nevertheless articulates a highly technical, calculated performance that is inherently oppositional to the song’s thematics of sexuality and impulsiveness. Brute physicality and notions of mindless spontaneity are replaced by elegance, which is disclosed in close-up shots of Williamson’s feet, which reveal carefully balanced, increasingly rapid tap steps on highly situated drums. He consequently surprises and challenges his audience with an elaborate and arresting display based on precision and self-control. The control employed in this scene cannot be over-estimated: a misplaced step and Williamson could fall to the floor.
In Primitivist Modernism, Lemke argues that African American entertainer Josephine Baker “shaped her artistic persona and did everything she could to control her audiences” (103). Lemke notes that, whilst remaining within a dehumanising primitive persona, Baker “adapted the racist stereotypes by which black people had been oppressed and exploited them for her own commercial success” (103). This empowerment of self, I contend, is also central to Robinson’s performance in this scene, for Robinson conducts his self-image by employing his own dancing style. Williamson is demeaned as a “savage” African – he is naked from the waist up and forced to wear “war” paint – but he is also able to employ Robinson’s innovative split-shoe, raised heel tap technique. Robinson is therefore able to signify upon his own image, and creatively play with a “primitive” persona to realise a very personal art form and refute homogenising representations of African American artistry. By disobeying the rules of the performance and acting out Robinson’s own dance, Williamson is therefore quite literally utilising an outlandish depiction of black life in order to deconstruct it and reduce it to farce. As fellow performer Fats Waller observes from the sidelines, “he’s fixing to tie the show up in knots.” He is literally reshaping the scene’s image, undermining its moral certainty.
Yet this reconfiguration remains containable within a racially segregated structure. Robinson never casts aside the “primitive” mask but can only perform within it, thus positioning his performance as a deflection rather than a wholesale refutation of racial stereotyping. Further, his anarchic showmanship is contained, not only within the scene – Williamson never again challenges authority figures – but also within an all-black framework. The devaluation of Williamson’s talents by his pale-skinned manager, Chick Bailey – who places him at the background of the stage in the drum scene whilst he himself takes the lead role – could be read as a subtle insinuation of white producers’ subjugation of African American performance artists in Hollywood but, due to the entire absence of actual “white” performers from the film, this potential reading is never directly expressed. Consequently, the scene creates irresolvable interpretations: Williamson’s performance can be read concurrently as a defiant celebration of self or as a transient moment of misrule.
Readings of Robinson’s image in Stormy Weather are complicated further by the film’s status as a Second World War movie, for Williamson does not simply function as a source of entertainment but simultaneously acts as an important propaganda device. As Sklaroff notes, “[a]s war managers sought to maintain the tenuous balance among a diverse range of interests, the promotion of popular entertainers, athletes, and military heroes figured heavily in plans for raising black morale” (969). Thus, cultural products and imagery during this period were manipulated to reflect social hegemony and national pride. Robinson and Stormy Weatherwere both intimately linked to this outburst of cultural propaganda: Sklaroff observes that Stormy Weatherwas released at a time when it was deemed that certain African American performers, including Robinson, “would have great value in any propaganda program” (969).
This propaganda, which positions the film as part of a growing humanisation of African Americans on screen, also hints at a manipulation of the Robinson image to encourage social conformity amongst black cinema audiences, thereby complicating the creative freedom that I have so far outlined in his performance. Williamson serves a peculiar social purpose within this film, namely, to extol rather than to challenge thestatus quo. His status as musical entertainer rather than explicit war hero has attracted scholarly criticism. Nesteby condemns Stormy Weather’s utilisation of Robinson and others as part of “a dominant Hollywood concept of the Afro-American as entertainer, called once again into service as part of the war effort, rather than as a serious participant in the war effort” (165), suggesting that Robinson performs as an emasculated minstrel rather than a heroic male lead.
The film’s two major references to conflict – a First World War victory party and a performance for troops about to fight in the Second World War – emphasise celebration and are thus disconnected from warfare. Calloway describes the Second World War performance as “a big blow up before [the troops] go overseas,” explicitly positioning the show as escapist entertainment. Dyer argues that “[m]usicals were predominantly conceived of, by producers and audience alike, as ‘pure entertainment’ – the idea of entertainment was a prime determinant on them” (Only Entertainment 17). In Dyer’s opinion, musical productions, and by extension Stormy Weather, are antithetical to social concerns – they are instead reductive inceptions of pleasure. This view is strengthened by the fact that, although Williamson is a World War I veteran, he makes no reference to his experiences, and his performance for the troops is a light-hearted staircase number to meet “that pretty chick up on the hill.”
However, there is a slippage between performance and performer in Williamson’s act for the troops that heightens his individuality, thereby negating his status as dehumanised war propaganda, and positioning him instead as a potential site of identification for African American audiences. Dyer himself notes that “the [film musical] workforce (the performers themselves) is in a better position to determine the form of its product than are, say, secretaries or car workers” (Only Entertainment 18), implying a creative authority on the part of performers that may in some ways work independently from their production frameworks. Robinson achieves authority and independence in this scene through artistic self-determination. In fact, the self-reflexivity of Robinson’s performance is made complete in this dance number as it is the moment in the film when Williamson’s career catches up with Robinson’s contemporary stardom. As he takes to the stage, it is to cries of “We want Williamson” – the audience expects a self-referential and personalised display. And this is exactly what he delivers, as he taps up and down a staircase that audiences familiar with Robinson’s dancing style would instantly recognise as a trademark of his stage persona. Cab Calloway’s appearance in this scene compounds this conflation of image with human presence. Not only is Calloway playing himself in this film but his reference to his stage partner as “Bill” makes it possible to read the performer as either Williamson or Robinson. Thus, the lines of character and performer are profoundly blurred.
Therefore, although Nesteby reads Stormy Weather as a popular musical “in which there was no connection between reality and ideality” (166), this scene, through its use of self-referential artistry, reveals that the imaginary film character of Williamson in fact slides over very heavily into Robinson’s celebrated stage persona. Nevertheless, this self-referential innuendo is ultimately muted by the animated facial expressions and exaggerated physical gait that Williamson employs in this scene. Joviality remains as much a part of this performance as artistic creativity, ultimately challenging this scene’s independence from derogatory racial stereotypes.
Readings of Robinson in Stormy Weather are complicated further by the film’s absence of “whiteness” – no white characters appear, and there is no reference to white society. Knight condemns this trait in the film, deploring it as a “utopia built to serve […] racial separatism” (118). He argues that the effect of this avoidance of cultural realities is to leave no space for considering “how or whether to escape or modify the blackfaced, minstrelized past, which was still so present” (118). Yet this reading fails to account for Robinson’s performance, which disrupts this representational “otherness” by providing a playful discourse through which “whiteness” can be subtly challenged and deconstructed.
Most notably, the film’s avoidance of “whiteness” foregrounds Williamson as its chief protagonist as the entire plot takes place around his experiences, the first and only time one of Robinson’s Hollywood performances would achieve such a distinction. This loosening of racially defined roles is most apparent in Williamson’s duet with Selina, in which the pair sings “Can’t Give You Anything But Love.” This scene involves a slow staircase descent in which Williamson is positioned as an eligible suitor – he is accompanied by a group of admiring young women before joining, singing with and embracing his noticeably paler skinned and younger lover. All movements – the scene soon becomes a group dance – are stylised, elegant and clearly intended to render Williamson with a sophisticated air. This scene imbues Robinson with status in Hollywood as an acceptable leading man – a subversion of the emasculating iconography of minstrelsy and notions of sexual uninhibitedness associated with primitivism – and it even permits him to consummate this image by allowing him to enfold his arms around Selina. This is a much more creatively straitening scene than the drum dance – Robinson’s moves are mirrored by a group of male dancers standing behind him – but it also serves to present Robinson as a plausible lead. Moreover, the film’s decision to cast Horne as Selina has the assumedly unintended effect of pairing Robinson with a woman who could be mistaken as “white” – and in fact was urged by nightclub owners to pass as Spanish  – subtly upsetting the rules against interracial relationships outlined in the all-powerful Hays Code, Hollywood’s censorship body of the time. 
This honouring of Robinson’s image is consequently made possible by the film’s elision of white performers, an omission that imbues him with creative agency and stardom. It is perhaps worth bearing in mind Zora Neale Hurston’s observation that “I feel most colored when I am thrown against a sharp white background” (see Baym et al. 1517) to note that, in a social and filmic environment of enforced African American subservience, Stormy Weather and Robinson reveal that performers of this era’s best hope for self-expression was through physical distance from “white” stars. Fundamentally, the film’s omission of white performers denies Robinson an opportunity for shared social and cultural status with white stars and underscores an enduring cultural denial of the injustices of segregation, while simultaneously providing audiences with nothing with which to subjugate and thus to devalue its African American performers, and thus positioning Robinson’s performance as a potential site of identification for black audiences.
Contemporary African American audience receptions to Robinson’s performance remain difficult to delineate, however, especially as the black press preferred to champion all African American film stars, regardless of the limited or demeaning nature of their roles. As Orr Vered notes, “[t]he black press advertised, promoted, and extolled all black performers in keeping with their policies to ‘support the race’” (62). Nevertheless, a 1935 Chicago Defender report on another of Robinson’s films, Hooray for Love, offers clues to contemporary black responses to his star image. In this article, Knight discovers that, in an African American theatre in Kansas at least, “the audience feels recognized and recognizes itself in the film’s musical moment” (21). The article’s author, Berry, notes that, “[i]t was as if Bill was on the stage in person, smiling in response to the welcome, as if he knew and understood that he was the asset necessary to the happiness of the audience” (Berry 8). This observation undermines notions that Robinson was creating “pure” entertainment by performing a cultural role that had no social function for contemporary audiences. It also complicates readings of Robinson as a “black man in blackface” performing for white viewing pleasure, by revealing that their enjoyment was shared by black audiences. Thus, while “pure” entertainment remains the implied result, Robinson’s cinematic image complicates associations with minstrelsy and dehumanisation, by suggesting that contemporary African American audiences identified with his recognisable stage persona.
Knight notes that this identification rests on Robinson’s stardom, but also on the fact that he is “both recognized by and better than the rest of the movie, that he is deservedly in but at the same time not of the movie” (21). This reading, which can be traced to Berry’s observation that “when Bill’s Harlem scene flashed, the applause was deafening” (8), implies that Robinson’s star image, amongst some African American audiences at least, was more important and perhaps even transcended the limited and demeaning Hollywood roles within which he was forced to perform. It therefore suggests that derogatory insinuations of primitivism and minstrelsy did not necessarily undermine audience identifications with Robinson’s performances. Moreover, it insinuates that interpretations of Robinson can be historicised and are therefore ultimately slippery. As Knight argues, “Bill Robinson’s looming presence in Hooray for Love suggests […] a way in which African American audiences may have organized their attention to the random, fragmented film musical forms that so often represented them” (21). From this reading, we can begin to see that interpretations of Robinson’s performance are complicated by its past cultural significance, in turn suggesting potential disunities between historical and current readings of his cinematic image.
Robinson’s performance in Stormy Weather therefore adheres to contemporary Hollywood codings of representational “otherness” inherited from popular conceptions of “blackness” – namely, primitivism and minstrelsy – but, through its contemporary setting, absence of white characters and emphasis on self-referential creativity, it also enables him to explore a new kind of screen image, in which he is the heroic lead and identifiable main star. Robinson’s performance therefore facilitates a partial escape from the minstrel “mask” and invites readings of his image as an indirect critique of racial oppression and segregation. Yet these subversions remain muted by a straitening cinematic agenda of social conformity and an all-black performance framework; the result is a filmic tension between racial “otherness,” subtle satire and self-reflexive creativity that never truly resolves itself but instead occludes conclusive interpretations of the film. Robinson’s performance in Stormy Weather is therefore extremely complex and ambiguous, and can be read as a cinematic articulation of cultural selfhood whilst simultaneously representing an apparent collusion with derogatory constructions of African American identities.
1.For more information on references to minstrelsy in sound-era Hollywood, see Eric Lott. Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.
2.Horne was not only encouraged to “pass” as Spanish by nightclub owners but also mistaken for a “Latin-American” by film audiences. See Megan E. Williams. “The Crisis Cover Girl: Lena Horne, the NAACP, and Representations of African American Femininity, 1941-1945.” American Periodicals: A Journal of History, Criticism, and Bibliography 16.2 (2006): 202.
3.The United States Motion Picture Production Code of 1930, or Hays Code – Hollywood’s regulatory body throughout the 1930s – articulated only one concern with “race” in films: that “miscegenation (sex relationship between the white and black races),” must not be depicted. See John T. McManus, John T, and Louis Kronenberger. “Motion Pictures, the Theater, and Race Relations.” Annals of the American Academy of Politics and Social Science. 244. Controlling Group Prejudice (Mar., 1946): 152.
Berry, Tommye. “Kansas City Likes The Film, ‘Hooray For Love.’” The Chicago Defender (National edition), 17 August 1935: 8.
Dyer, Richard. “Is Car Wash a Musical?.” Black American Cinema. Ed. Manthia Diawara. New York: Routledge, 1993: 93-106.
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Gates, Jr., Henry Louis. The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of Afro-American Literary Criticism. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.
Haskins, Jim, and N. R. Mitgang. Mr. Bojangles: The Biography of Bill Robinson. New York: William Morrow & Company, 1988.
Hurston, Zora Neale. “How It Feels to Be Colored Me.” 1928. The Norton Anthology of American Literature, Vol. D, 6th ed. Ed. Nina Baym, et al. New York: WW Norton, 2003: 1516-1518.
Knight, Arthur. Disintegrating the Musical: Black Performance and American Musical Film. Durham: Duke University Press, 2002.
Koppes, Clayton R., and Gregory D. Black. “Blacks, Loyalty, and Motion-Picture Propaganda in World War II.”The Journal of American History, 73.2 (Sep., 1986): 383-406.
Lemke, Sieglinde. Primitivist Modernism: Black Culture and the Origins of Transatlantic Modernism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.
Lhamon, Jr., W. T. Raising Cain: Blackface Performance from Jim Crow to Hip Hop. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998.
Lott, Eric. Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.
Malone, Jacqui. Steppin’ on the Blues: The Visible Rhythms of African American Dance. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1996.
Nesteby, James R. Black Images in American Films, 1896-1954: The Interplay Between Civil Rights and Film Culture. Lanham: University Press of America, 1982.
Orr Vered, Karen. “White and Black in Black and White: Management of Race and Sexuality in the Coupling of Child-Star Shirley Temple and Bill Robinson.” The Velvet Light Trap: A Critical Journal of Film and Television, 39 (Spring, 1997): 52-65.
Sklaroff, Lauren Rebecca. “Constructing G. I. Joe Louis: Cultural Solutions to the “Negro Problem” during World War II.” The Journal of American History. 89.3 (Dec., 2000): 958-983.
Watkins, Mel. On the Real Side: Laughing, Lying, and Signifying – The Underground Tradition of African-American Humor that Transformed American Culture, from Slavery to Richard Pryor. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994.