It's Black History Month, and I want to start by acknowledging that Black History is simply history; but we need to pay special attention because so much of mmainstream history has been erased, minimized, or reframed to suit white supremacy.
I'll be providing some resources for students who are curious about burlesque history, but have been reading older texts (including mine, I regret to say) that omit significant contributions by Black artists and entertainment businesspeople.
First up, I want to celebrate the phenomenal work of Leslie Cunningham, a documentarian and author who produced Brown Skin Showgirls and Jig Show, as well as documentaries on other dazzling topics. From her website:
"BROWN SKIN SHOWGIRLS is a black and white photographic collection of the Black and Cuban women who performed burlesque, exotic, rhumba, salsa, calypso, striptease and female impersonation on Leon Claxton's Harlem in Havana Revue. This book is guaranteed to expand your knowledge of Black and Cuban performers that shaped American popular culture."
During the summer of 2020 I produced a series of zoom book clubs during which I discussed books or presented interviews of authors, and for one of these events burlesque historian Bebe Bardeaux interviewed Leslie! You can listen to the interview here. Let me know if you have any problems with the link!
Please recommend you Black History Month links and resources in the comments!
I'll also be adding more resources for doing your own research over the next two months -- we can all be historians, once we know how to look and report!
(Just be aware that there is a lot of messy and unreliable history on some social media sites just as much as in biased history books -- and we'll talk about that too.)