Read Shuffle Along: The Musical at the Center of the Harlem Renaissance to learn more about this important production.


Shuffle Along




The Kennedy Center
Marco Polo
This resource was created in March 2003 by ARTSEDGE. All rights reserved.
ARTSEDGE is a project of the Education Department of The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts,
and is a member of the MarcoPolo Partnership

Written by the comic duo of Flournoy Miller and Aubrey L. Lyles, with music and lyrics by the vaudeville team of Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle, the musical revue Shuffle Along opened on Broadway in 1921. It enjoyed an astonishing run of 504 performances in its home at the Cort Theatre.

With its all-black cast, Shuffle Along introduced Broadway to the rising young stars Florence Mills, Paul Robeson, and a 15-year-old singer and dancer named Josephine Baker. Even more pivotal, the production did not follow the racist practice of restricting black theatergoers to the balcony; the Cort welcomed them to the orchestra seats as well.

The show featured the first realistic African-American love story. That was a historical milestone. Until Shuffle Along, love scenes between blacks had been a stage taboo unless they were broad, often debasing caricatures. White audiences, it was feared, would not accept anything more sophisticated than that.

In addition to its tactical successes—it introduced the song "Love Will Find a Way," for example—Shuffle Along scored a strategic coup as well. It legitimized both the African-American musical and the African-American actor, proving to white stage producers and theater managers that audiences would gladly pay good money to see excellent black talent on Broadway.



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Florence Mills made her stage-musical debut in Shuffle Along.

Eubie Blake created music for the production.

As a fan of Florence Mills, Langston Hughes was often in the audience.

Paul Robeson appeared in Shuffle Along.

Adelaide Hall made her professional stage debut in Shuffle Along.

William Grant Still performed in the orchestra.

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