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The Vaudeville Actress Who Refused To Be A Stereotype

Aida Overton Walker was an African-American singer, actress, dancer, and choreographer that broke down barriers.

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She also earned the nickname "The Queen of the Cakewalk," after popularizing the dance of the same name.


Cakewalk was a 19th-century dance that began in the African-American community in which walkers performing the most accomplished or amusing steps won cakes as prizes.

In 1908, Aida's career took an unexpected turn when her husband became ill and was forced to retire. She then began touring the vaudeville circuit as a solo act -- performing his parts in drag.

But in 1912, Aida had a small comeback playing the lead in Oscar Hammerstein’s revival of Salome, at the Victoria Theater in New York City. Her performance won her critical praise.

While Aida’s life was cut short, she left behind a important legacy.


As I’ll Keep You Posted notes:

"[Aida] was renowned in her own community as an activist for both black entertainment and women's equality. Aida opened the doors for the show business daughters... like Lottie Gee, Florence Mills, Ethel Waters and even Josephine Baker.”

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