Set against the backdrop of transforming theatre conventions in the early 1900s and US entry into World War I in 1917, this book relates the stories of the actors, stage artists, critics and many others - black and white - involved in the groundbreaking production of ""Three Plays for a Negro Theatre"". Curtis explores in great depth both the progress in race relations that led to this production and the multi-faceted reasons for its quick demise. She also investigates the heightened national self-consciousness that followed the United States' entry into the war. By focusing on a single event at a critical moment in history, ""The First Black Actors on the Great White Way"" offers a glimpse into race relations in early 20th-century American society.
Susan Curtis is Professor of History and Chair of the American Studies Program at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. She is the author of the acclaimed biography Dancing to a Black Man's Tune: A Life of Scott Joplin (University of Missouri Press).