Walker, George W. (1873 - 1911) [Williams, Bert. (1874 - 1922)]

Two Original Postcards

Two original postcards of the African-American vaudeville performer known as half of the "Williams and Walker" act. Walker is seen with dark makeup on in a checked suit, lamentably captioned "Just a Jolly Coon," and in a tuxedo captioned "A Model in Colored High Art." Published by Carter & Gut, New York, as part of a "Williams and Walker" series. Undated, ca. 1900-1910. Light wear to the edges, a few chips, and mounting remnants on the verso; overall in very good condition. 3.25 x 5.5 inches (8.4 x 13.7 cm).

Inhabiting the overtly racist landscape of their time, Walker and Williams billed themselves as ''The Two Real Coons,'' and Williams, the child of recent immigrants from the Bahamas, made the radical decision to don blackface makeup to hide his light complexion and play the “coon.” Behind this mask he became a Broadway headliner–as influential a comedian as Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy, and W. C. Fields, who called him “the funniest man I ever saw, and the saddest man I ever knew.”  Walker played the part of a flashy, smooth-talking urban hustler, while Williams' persona was a shuffling, slow-witted, down-on-his-luck bumbler. Together they starred in a series of enormously successful and critically acclaimed musicals, including In Dahomey, the first African-American musical. Williams' performance of ''I'm a Jonah Man'' was considered to be the highlight of that show. The two men are also responsible for popularizing the Cakewalk. Walker retired in 1909, and Williams went on to become the first black performer in the Ziegfeld Follies.  (13352)

Unsigned Photograph
Culture, Ethnicity & Gender