Bill Robinson

Robinson, Bill, 1878–1949, African-American tap dancer popularly known as "Bojangles," b. Richmond, Va., as Luther Robinson. An influential virtuoso tap dancer, he was a tap innovator and reputedly the first to dance on the balls of his feet instead of in the earlier flat-footed style. For many years he performed on the black entertainment circuit, joining (1886) a touring musical troupe, beginning (1906) a successful stage and nightclub career, and dancing for years in vaudeville. Robinson achieved wide acclaim for his appearance on Broadway in Blackbirds of 1928 and later starred in the musical The Hot Mikado (1939). He was in 14 Hollywood features in the 1930s and 40s, including In Old Kentucky (1935) and Stormy Weather (1943), and made four movies with Shirley Temple, including The Little Colonel (1935), in which he performed his famous "stair" dance with the child star, and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1938).

See biography by J. Haskins and N. R. Mitgang (1988, repr. 1999).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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