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The Most Beautiful Women in the World: Black Women Performers in Paris and Internationalism in the 20th Century

Fri, Oct 7, 12:00 to 1:45pm, Richmond Marriott Hotel, Richmond Marriott Hotel Salon H-AV Room


During the twentieth century many black American women took advantage of the gendered interest for black females to perform in trans-Atlantic vaudeville and cabaret. The international success of black American women who were performers and entertainers abroad made them excellent global ambassadors for black progress and potential. Black American women’s performances and entrée into the artistic life of French café-concerts and music-hall glamorized black American life abroad-this was frequently documented in numerous African American newspapers and fashion magazines. The focus of this presentation will be on the specific international experiences of Eartha Kitt and Ada ‘Bricktop’ Smith-two black American women who became very successful as performers and entertainers in France during the 20th century. This presentation will explore the ways that the experiences of these women were highlighted in African American newspapers and in editorials in African American fashion magazines. Additionally this paper will provide a theoretical discussion of the significance of the international experiences of black American women in expressive culture.