Journal of African American Studies

, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 7–21 | Cite as

Respectable Vamp: A Black Feminist Analysis of Florence Mills’ Career in Early Vaudeville Theater

  • Zakiya R. AdairEmail author


Florence Mills was one of only a few African American women vaudeville performers to become an international success. Born in Washington D.C. in 1895 and raised in Harlem, New York, Mills was a child performer in dramatic and musical theater. Through analysis of Florence Mills’ performances in Shuffle Along (1921), Dover Street to Dixie (1923) and The Black Birds Revue (1926), I seek to reveal the ways Florence Mills made use of the cultural economies of vaudeville to resist dominant constructions of race and gender. In particular, I assert that Florence Mills manipulated white American and European desires to consume slave culture, and expanded economic and cultural possibilities for African American women entertainers.


Afro-centric feminism Black Internationalism Ethno-Racial classification Theatrical Musical Revues 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of MissouriColumbiaUSA

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