Williams and Walker
At the beginning of the 20th century and the era of the “New Negro,” Bert Williams and George Walker founded their theater company, the Williams and Walker Company, alongside progressive innovations in black literature, poetry, and art. Although at first glance the founding of an African American minstrel show seems in direct opposition to the development of the “New Negro,” the two are in fact founded in the same radical spirit of change. Just like the writers, poets and artists of the “New Negro” era, the Williams and Walker Company was a direct product of African American migration from the rural South to the cities of the Northeast. The Williams and Walker Company was not the first African American blackface minstrel company to exist, but it was arguably the first to bring postwar black musical theater that contested the cultural ownership of racial representations to the attention of a white mainstream audience.