This chapter begins with the tap challenge between Baby Laurence Jackson and Freddie James in Harlem. It then launches into the 1930s in which “tap was everywhere.” The decade that saw more tap dance acts than any other in the twentieth century was also the most segregated. Thirty years after the Supreme Court case of Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), which had ruled for “separate but equal” status for black Americans in public transportation, the Jim Crow laws had become an institutionalized and codified practice. This chapter looks at the segregated arenas for tap in the 1930s—at the Lafayette and Apollo Theaters and the Cotton Club, which featured such black musical artists as the Nicholas Brothers, Buck and Bubbles, and Cora LaRedd; within Hollywood musicals starring, among others, Fred Astaire and Eleanor Powell; and in sites of interracial performance in Hollywood musicals.
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