Darktown Follies (Lafayette Theatre, Harlem, 1913) By Templeton, Melissa
One of the earliest large-scale musical revues to be created and performed by an all-Black cast, Darktown Follies premiered in 1913 at the Lafayette Theatre in Harlem. Darktown Follies exhibited qualities common to minstrel shows of the period with its episodic musical numbers and large group finale. The plot, however, focussed on a romantic storyline between two Black characters, which was rarely seen in minstrel performances. Darktown Follies introduced dances, like Ballin’ the Jack (which would eventually become a popular dance on Broadway) and the Texas Tommy (a predecessor of the lindy hop) to the New York stage. Darktown Follies helped launch a trend of White artists traveling to Harlem in search of new material for their own productions. The show foreshadowed the development Black musicals like Shuffle Along (1921) and was an important precursor to the artistic renaissance that would define Black modernism in Harlem of the 1920s and 1930s.