This month will feature quotes from individuals who were born free.
Egbert “Bert” Austin Williams was one of the greatest entertainers in America’s history. Born in the Bahamas on November 12, 1874, he came to the United States permanently in 1885. Williams met George Walker in San Francisco in 1893 and the two formed what became the most successful comedy team of their time. When Walker retired in 1908 due to illness, Williams starred in Mr. Load of Koal (1909)–the last black musical on Broadway for more than ten years. Unable to continue producing shows without Walker, Williams signed on with the Ziegfeld Follies in 1910–the only black performer in this famous review. He explained this controversial move saying, “… colored show business is at a low ebb just now … it was far better to have joined a large white show than to have starred in a colored show, considering conditions.” Williams stayed with the Follies through 1919, after which he appeared with Eddie Cantor in Broadway Brevities (1920) and Under the Bamboo Tree (1921-22). While on tour with the latter show, his failing health caught up with him and he contracted pneumonia. Williams died in New York City on March 4, 1922.