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Florence Mills: Harlem Jazz Queen (Studies…
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Florence Mills: Harlem Jazz Queen (Studies in Jazz Series)

by Bill Egan

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This biography reveals the lost history of the life of the 1920s Black female international superstar. Mills was lionized by the crowned heads in Europe and opened doors for generations of Black female stars from Lena Horne to Diana Ross. Although her career and shows changed the nature of Black entertainment, and thereby the wider American popular culture, she was largely forgotten in later years. Anyone who wants to understand the history of Black entertainment from Bert Williams to Michael Jackson and, by implication, the history of American popular culture, needs to understand the ways in which Florence Mills changed the rules forever.… (more)

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The following text of an audio review aired on National Public Radio on September 11, 2005. It appears on the NPR website at http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4840636

I enjoyed Florence Mills: Harlem Jazz Queen, by Bill Egan. It's an exhaustively thorough biography of a woman who was arguably the first international African-American female star of the entertainment world. In the 1920s, Mills was the unparalleled jazz artist of her generation. She had the distinction of turning down the great Ziegfeld for his "Follies" in deference to the work she felt her status obliged her to continue on behalf of her race. Mills is largely forgotten today, but Mr. Egan's affectionate and scholarly and immensely entertaining biography should correct that. His book is a monument not only to Mills' memory, but to the history of popular theatre as it matured via jazz from vaudeville to Broadway. I'm not lending my copy to anyone!
  erikeith | Jan 8, 2008 |
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