African American Entertainers in Australia and New Zealand: A History, 1788-1941

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It is often forgotten that 11 African Americans, including a musician, were among the First Fleet of colonial settlers to Australia. In the 150-plus following years, African Americans visiting the region included jubilee singers, minstrels, ragtimers, vaudevillians, jazz musicians, sports stars, dancers, singers and general entertainers, some of whom became long stayers or residents. This book provides the only comprehensive history of more than 350 African American entertainers in Australia and New Zealand between European settlement in Australia in 1788 and the entry of the United States into World War II in 1941. It explains how and why they came, how they were treated and how that changed with the infamous White Australia policy. Famous names include boxer Jack Johnson, film star Nina Mae McKinney, vocalist Ivie Anderson of Duke Ellington's band, swing dancer Frankie Manning and jazz singer Eva Taylor. Beyond the bare performance histories, the book reveals stories of personal experiences and dilemmas: How did Jack Johnson almost marry an Australian? Why did Nina Mae McKinney's show close mysteriously? Which African American entertainer became mayor of a New Zealand town? Did a mystery romance keep Jolly John Larkins in the region for eight years? Such background stories give a multidimensional view of the entertainers' time in a place very far from home.