Williams, Bert

Williams, (Egbert Austin) Bert

(?1874–1922) stage actor, singer, songwriter; born in Nassau, Bahamas, British West Indies. Part African in descent, he was raised in Los Angeles and went on the road with the Mastadon Minstrels in 1891; he was so light-skinned that he had to use blackface to maintain his role as an African. In 1893 he formed a partnership with another African-American song-and-dance man, George Walker; their New York City premiere in 1896 in the farce, The Gold Bug, made them into a hit team and they appeared in a number of musicals until Walker retired in 1909. Williams was the first black comic to record with Victor Records (starting in 1901); he was one of those behind the early all-black musical, In Dahomey (1902); and he was one of the founders of the first African-American actors' society (1906). Williams continued as a solo act and became the most celebrated "black" actor on Broadway, appearing in the annual Ziegfield Follies between 1910–19 (except for 1913 and 1918). His last Broadway appearance was in Broadway Brevities in 1920. Although he had appeared in blackface throughout his career and often played a shuffling fall-guy, he was credited as one of the first African-Americans to defy some of the stereotypes of the minstrel-show Negro, especially in his own songs such as "Nobody" and "That's a-Plenty." He was the subject of Duke Ellington's "Portrait of Bert Williams" (1940).
References in periodicals archive ?
There is also a photograph of some of the children who were snapped on the day: front to back: Norman Williams, Bert Blore (whose brother was born in 1942, therefore missing from the snap, but who did qualify to play for Wales), Vera Kemp (a summer visitor who lived next door to the Spackman family in Stuart, Walton), Barbara Ware (nee Spackman), Joyce Boyd (nee Boville) and Viv Haworth herself.
HONOURS: From left, Catherine Zeta Jones, Amy Williams, Bert Williams, Anne Reid and David Coulthard
Alan Yentob introduces this three part series and talks to accomplished players like John Williams, Bert Weedon and Peter Townshend.