Profs and Pints Baltimore presents: “Black Vaudeville in Baltimore,” a look at race relations on stage in Baltimore in the Roaring Twenties, with Michelle R. Scott, historian and professor of African American history and American entertainment at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
The Theater Owners' Booking Association, or T.O.B.A., was a national theater circuit that made black vaudeville theater and its blues music belters, slapstick comedians, and Charleston dancers famous in the United States at the height of the racially tumultuous 1920s. Its Eastern district headquarters operated from Washington D.C, and just up the road Baltimore’s Pennsylvania Avenue was where many of its star acts perfected their talents.
Learn about this pivotal time in the cultural and racial history of Baltimore with Dr. Michelle Scott, author of T.O.B.A. Time: Black Vaudeville and the Theater Owners' Booking Association in Jazz Age America.
Dr. Scott will discuss how the booking association arose through the interracial collaborations of Black, native born White, and white immigrant theater professionals who profited from the entertainment world as a business, but also combatted social injustice and racial disparity through the art of the early 20th century Black stage.
You’ll learn about the on-stage and off-stage narratives of Black entrepreneurs and race leaders who shaped the black vaudeville industry as performers and entrepreneurs operating Baltimore’s Black business districts. The talk will get into vivid detail how circuit artists like the city’s native son Cab Calloway, blues singer Alberta Hunter, and tap dancers the Nicholas Brothers performed at the nearly 100 African American serving theaters across the country, from Philadelphia’s South Street to Chattanooga’s Ninth Street. (Advance tickets: $13.50 plus sales tax and processing fees. Doors: $17, or $15 with a student ID. Doors open at 5. Talk begins at 6:30.)
Image: Cab Calloway conducts his band. (Public domain photo by unknown photographer / Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.)