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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Innovative Work of American Intellectual History.
First off, if you are expecting this book to be a straight biography of Bert Williams (as another reviewer obviously did), then this book is not one. And if you have any prejudices against cutting-edge scholarship on the complex histories of black global politics, literature and culture (as that same reviewer also obviously does), then this book is not for you. In fact,...
Published on August 2, 2006 by Kristin L. Tillim

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16 of 32 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Broadway Pioneer Captured By Academics
If any performer deserves an authoritative biography, it is Bert Williams, who with his partner George Walker, broke the color barrier on Broadway. After illness forced Walker into retirement just after reaching stardom, Williams joined the Ziegfeld Follies, where he worked with many show business legends, among them Eddie Cantor and W. C. Fields. Over the years, Cantor...
Published on April 3, 2006 by Chris Moore


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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Innovative Work of American Intellectual History., August 2, 2006
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This review is from: The Last 'Darky': Bert Williams, Black-on-Black Minstrelsy, and the African Diaspora (a John Hope Franklin Center Book) (Paperback)
First off, if you are expecting this book to be a straight biography of Bert Williams (as another reviewer obviously did), then this book is not one. And if you have any prejudices against cutting-edge scholarship on the complex histories of black global politics, literature and culture (as that same reviewer also obviously does), then this book is not for you. In fact, if you read the back cover of this brilliant book or its introduction or any of its pages (as the aforementioned reviewer clearly did not), then you will know exactly what this already widely influential book is: a philosophical and political study of the interrelations between African American, West Indian immigrants and Africans before and during the period known as the Harlem Renaissance.

Using Bert Williams-or rather his on-stage persona-as an example of "black on black cross-culturality"-Louis Chude-Sokei presents an intricate and immensely rich alternate reading of literary/cultural modernism. He also presents a daring critique of the implication of African American high and popular culture in American imperialism and American systems of prejudice and power. He also most importantly maps out the tense and productive relationships between non-American blacks and African Americans over the course of the early twentieth century.

Pointing out that for non-American blacks assimilation in America has been always double-into "white" America as well as into/against African America and its global influence-this book traces black on black performances from New York, to the Caribbean, to Europe and to Africa itself. It ranges from carnival and calypso to blues recordings, to Broadway to Hollywood. What links it all in this book is the presence, the memory and the example of Bert Williams, who he describes (via a creative remixing of W.C. Fields' famous quote) as still being The Funniest Man We NEVER Saw and the Saddest Man We NEVER Knew.

A remarkable, poetic and experimental work of the scholarly imagination. This book opens up a conversation and a set of issues that will define this new century.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An exploration of mask and identity, September 19, 2006
By 
S. Duensing (London, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Last 'Darky': Bert Williams, Black-on-Black Minstrelsy, and the African Diaspora (a John Hope Franklin Center Book) (Paperback)
Although written for an academic audience, the provocative ideas of this book will be of interest to much broader communities. The author presents a wonderful and intriguing exploration of identity, mask, race and stereotype in his scholarly yet accessible portrait of the fascinating Bert Williams. Through Williams, Chude-Sokei presents an unusual perspective of the West Indian in black and white America. Playing with the layers of perspectives and stereotypes, he explores the cultural mixes and misses from the early 1900's that are still of relevance today.
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16 of 32 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Broadway Pioneer Captured By Academics, April 3, 2006
By 
Chris Moore (New Jersey United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Last 'Darky': Bert Williams, Black-on-Black Minstrelsy, and the African Diaspora (a John Hope Franklin Center Book) (Paperback)
If any performer deserves an authoritative biography, it is Bert Williams, who with his partner George Walker, broke the color barrier on Broadway. After illness forced Walker into retirement just after reaching stardom, Williams joined the Ziegfeld Follies, where he worked with many show business legends, among them Eddie Cantor and W. C. Fields. Over the years, Cantor told many wonderful stories about the dignity, humanity, and generous nature of Bert Williams. They're not in the book and Cantor is barely mentioned. Fields described Williams as, "The funniest man I ever saw and the saddest man I ever knew." This book manages to garble the poignant quote and avoid attributing it to Fields, whose name doesn't appear in the index.

While the work contains one or two interesting insights, they are buried under a mountain of trendy academic buzz-words and faux-insightful attempts to attribute Williams with all things good or funny (or both), under the sun. This has the paradoxical effect of diminishing the work of a great artist and obscuring the life of a man who was honestly and justly pained by his life in late 19th and early 20th century America. Rejected by whites because he was black, Williams found little welcome in the black community because he was West Indian.

As it was during his life, so it is with this book: Williams deserves better. In what could have been a fascinating account of the man's life and times, he is barely visible behind a blizzard of witless theorizing designed to wow the Ph.D. set.

"The Last 'Darky': Bert Williams, Black-on-Black Minstrelsy, and the African Diaspora," isn't about its subject, its about its audience.
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1 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Terrible book, April 9, 2011
By 
Agustine (Colorado Springs, CO USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Last 'Darky': Bert Williams, Black-on-Black Minstrelsy, and the African Diaspora (a John Hope Franklin Center Book) (Paperback)
This book is full of conjecture and theories about what different audiences supposedly thought about blackface minstrelsy and Bert Williams in particular. Since there is not way to know for certain what each individual thought, it is entirely conjecture. That Bert Williams was very successful and apparently pleased his audiences speaks for itself.
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The Last 'Darky': Bert Williams, Black-on-Black Minstrelsy, and the African Diaspora (a John Hope Franklin Center Book)
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