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Collection National Jukebox

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Black Broadway and Tin Pan Alley

African American songwriters and performers made up a small, yet important part of the early recording industry. These are recordings of compositions by top African American composers and lyricists of the early 1900s, including Will Marion Cook, Paul Laurence Dunbar, James Rosamond Johnson, James Reese Europe, Noble Sissle, and Eubie Blake. The performances are by both black and white performers.The most famous black artists to record during at the turn of the 20th century were Bert Williams and George Walker, whose fame nearly transcended the racial prejudice of the day. The fact that they were black may not have been as remarkable as the fact that they were stage performers who also made recordings. In those days, recording companies sought performers who could easily master the intricacies of recording acoustically — and many stage artists were clearly not suited to the medium. See African American Performers on Early Sound Recordings, 1892-1916 for more on this subject.Black songwriters have a much stronger presence on early sound recordings than do black performers. In most cases the performances in this playlist are by white artists. The exceptions are the selections by stage artist Eddie Hunter and his accompanist C. Luckeyeth \"Lucky\" Roberts and also a solo by George Walker of the team Williams and Walker.

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