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Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson
Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson, born on May 25, 1878, began his dancing career in childhood. The young song-and-dance man learned his trade in beer gardens, traveling companies and later on the vaudeville circuit. Robinson performed only within the black community until he was 50 years old, when his unique style of tap-dancing, including his signature ‘stair dance,’ crossed over to white audiences. Robinson, who continued to perform into his late sixties, made 14 Hollywood motion pictures, playing both stereotypical black roles and a handful of leads. He died of a chronic heart condition in 1949.

Photo: Library of Congress