A self discovery guide for Black Family Historians
Black family history and African American genealogy hints in theater history.
"In Dahomey: A Negro Musical Comedy was a landmark American musical comedy, "the first full-length musical written and played by blacks to be performed at a major Broadway house." It featured music by Will Marion Cook, book by Jesse A. Shipp, and lyrics by poet Paul Laurence Dunbar." via wikipedia.
I love reading history, especially when there are genealogy clues. Just in the description of the play alone has lots of family history hints that may fit in your family tree or clues heard in family oral history.
Let's explore some of the surnames involved in producing the first full length musical comedy play by African Americans on Broadway!
PAPERDOLL JOURNAL NOTES
Whenever I see a full name of interest, I search the name for a wikipedia submission, usually more information is noted there such as birth date, birthplace, parents, spouse and children and often times military history if relevant, is noted also.
Another helpful tip is to look at the year of the history you are reviewing and find a person on your family tree of the same era, location or vocation and search their name with keywords relevant to what you are reading.
EX searching 'In Dahomey 'YOUR ANCESTORS NAME' could bring some interesting finds and hints. Remember to keep notes on your search to refer to later.
Happy researching! ~ Lisa
In Dahomey above the line: cast and crew
William Mercer Cook (January 27, 1869 – July 19, 1944), better known as Will Marion Cook, was an African-American composer and violinist from the United States. Cook was a student of Antonín Dvořák and performed for King George V among others. He is probably best known for his popular songs and Broadway musicals, such as Clorindy, or The Origin of the Cake Walk and In Dahomey.
Jesse Allison Shipp, Sr. (March 24, 1864 in Cincinnati, Ohio - June 1934) was an African-American actor, playwright, and theatrical director, who is best remembered as a pioneer African-American writer of musical theater in the United State, and as the author of the book upon which the landmark play In Dahomey was based. Shipp played an influential role in expanding black theater beyond its minstrel show origins and is recalled as perhaps the first African-American director of a Broadway performance.
Paul Laurence Dunbar (June 27, 1872 – February 9, 1906) was an American poet, novelist, and playwright of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Born in Dayton, Ohio, to parents who had been enslaved in Kentucky before the American Civil War, Dunbar began to write stories and verse when still a child.