Charles Gilpin (born this day in 1878) was best known, and achieved his greatest acclaim for playing the title role in Eugene O’Neill’s The Emperor Jones (a role that went to Paul Robeson in the screen version). Before this, though he travelled with all manner of black vaudeville and stock companies for decades, working with the likes of Williams and Walker and Ernest Hogan, and even assuming leadership of the famed Lafayette Players. After Jones, drink and a big ego are said to have sent him into a steep decline, and he was fired from many promising roles before he passed away in 1930.
To find out more about the history of vaudeville, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.
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