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Tap Dancing AmericaA Cultural History$
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Constance Valis Hill

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195390827

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195390827.001.0001

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Tap Dancing America

Constance Valis Hill

Oxford University Press

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.

Keywords:   tap challenge, Hollywood musicals, Apollo, Lafayette, interracial performance, segregated, Cora LaRedd, Fred Astaire, Eleanor Powell

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