Dudley, the Smart Set, and the Beginning of the Black Entertainment Industry

Authored by: George-Graves Nadine

The Routledge Companion to African American Theatre and Performance

Print publication date:  December  2018
Online publication date:  December  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138726710
eBook ISBN: 9781315191225
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter lends insight into Black vaudeville as the progenitor of the professional Black entertainment industry in the United States by focusing in on the story of a key figure. Sherman H. Dudley had a long career as an entertainer, stage manager, producer, and entrepreneur; was a major player with the Smart Set; and became an owner in (and the face of) the Theatre Owners Booking Association (TOBA or Toby), the largest management organization of Black talent at the time. His story helps us understand the development of Africanist aesthetics in conjunction with larger national conversations about race.

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