The Royalty of Negro Vaudeville: The Whitman Sisters and the Negotiation of Race, Gender and Class in African American Theater, 1900-1940

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The Whitman Sisters were the highest paid act on the Negro Vaudeville Circuit, Theater Owner Booking Association (Toby), and one of the longest surviving touring companies (1899-1942). The group was considered the greatest incubator of dancing talent for Negro shows on or off Toby, and significantly contributed to American theater and dance history. In The Royalty of Negro Vaudeville , Nadine George-Graves provides an historical narrative of their achievements and uses black feminist theories, feminist theories of performance, and theories of class and popular culture to analyze the many layers of performance in which the Whitman Sisters participated, on and off the stage. She shows that these four black women manipulated their race, gender and class to resist hegemonic forces while achieving success. By maintaining a high-class image, they were able to challenge fictions of racial and gender identity.