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Staging race: Florence Mills, celebrity, identity and performance in 1920s Britain

Bressey, C; Romain, G; (2019) Staging race: Florence Mills, celebrity, identity and performance in 1920s Britain. Women's History Review , 28 (3) pp. 380-395. 10.1080/09612025.2018.1493119. Green open access

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Abstract

This article focuses on the time the African American performer Florence Mills spent in Britain in the 1920s. Mills was one of the most popular performers of the period, taking a lead in African American vaudeville productions, she was admired by working class and ‘elite’ black and white audiences. Our paper examines four examples of Mills’ British fan mail alongside newspaper reports of her performances in London. These reveal complex themes of identity, of Britishness, sexuality, gender and class within the context of changing international understandings of race relations in the Inter-war period. We utilise these letters alongside newspaper reports to consider how Mills’ presence in Britain as a performer and anti-racist activist influenced debates and personal reflections on racial identity, sexual desire and belonging to Britain.

Type: Article
Title: Staging race: Florence Mills, celebrity, identity and performance in 1920s Britain
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1080/09612025.2018.1493119
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1080/09612025.2018.1493119
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Geography
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10055443
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