Bill “Bojangles” Robinson

bojangles1May 25, 1878 – November 25, 1949

Bill “Bojangles” Robinson began his life as Luther Robinson in Richmond, VA where he learned to dance for pennies on the street. Busking led to bit parts and “picknaninny” roles in local minstrel shows. This led to predominantly-white vaudeville shows…and then he went to work.

Widely regarded for his tap dancing prowess and innovation, he busted through the racial barriers of his day at every level, eventually becoming one of the first Black solo performers in vaudeville and, ultimately, making a name for himself on Broadway. Robinson became the first Black headliner in Broadway history with 1940’s All In Fun. He jumped to Hollywood, famously appearing alongside Shirley Temple in four 20th Century Fox musicals. He became a de facto “ambassador” to the white community, a fact that led to quite a bit of controversy among both White and Black communities. But, he continued on. An avid baseball fan, he co-founded the New York Black Yankees of the Negro National League.

Despite all of his success – he was the highest paid Black performer of his time – Bojangles died broke in New York of heart failure at the age of 71. His legacy, however, was far richer. Entertainers like Ann Miller, Lena Horne and Sammy Davis Jr. all credit Robinson with directly influencing their careers.


The Evergreens Cemetery – Brooklyn, NY

Specific Location

Redemption 1; Prominently visible at the Southeast corner of the intersection of the Redemption, Ascension and Siloam sections.



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