Mills, Florence

Mills, Florence

(1895–1927) entertainer, singer; born in Washington, D.C. She was appearing in musicals by age 5, toured with two sisters in vaudeville at age 15, then gained notice in 1916 singing in the Panama Trio. Her big break came when she replaced the lead in the all-black hit musical, Shuffle Along (1921); she went on to star in such Broadway musicals as Plantation Revue (1922) and Dixie to Broadway (1924); by this time she was also a star in London and Paris. She was most famous for her rendition of "I'm a Little Blackbird Looking for a Bluebird" but she also sang a solo written especially for her in William Grant Still's orchestral work, Levee Land (1926). Petite, gorgeous, completely in command on stage, she was greatly mourned when she died prematurely.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.